Hemispheric American Studies

Hemispheric American Studies

Hemispheric American Studies

Hemispheric American Studies

Synopsis

This landmark collection brings together a range of exciting new comparative work in the burgeoning field of hemispheric studies. Scholars working in the fields of Latin American studies, Asian American studies, American studies, American literature, African Diaspora studies, and comparative literature address the urgent question of how scholars might reframe disciplinary boundaries within the broad area of what is generally called American studies. The essays take as their starting points such questions as: What happens to American literary, political, historical, and cultural studies if we recognize the interdependency of nation-state developments throughout all the Americas? What happens if we recognize the nation as historically evolving and contingent rather than already formed? Finally, what happens if the "fixed" borders of a nation are recognized not only as historically produced political constructs but also as component parts of a deeper, more multilayered series of national and indigenous histories?

With essays that examine stamps, cartoons, novels, film, art, music, travel documents, and governmental publications, Hemispheric American Studies seeks to excavate the complex cultural history of texts and discourses across the ever-changing and stratified geopolitical and cultural fields that collectively comprise the American hemisphere. This collection promises to chart new directions in American literary and cultural studies.

Excerpt

Caroline F. levander and robert S. levine

In 1973 an editorial team at Yale University published American Literature: the Makers and the Making the most influential American literary anthology of the decade. This two-volume work both exemplified the state of the field and set the direction of Americanist literary criticism for the next ten to fifteen years. As framed by the editors, Cleanth Brooks, R. W. B. Lewis, and Robert Penn Warren, the selections in the first volume charted a tripartite literary development beginning with the Puritans’ “Pre-National Literature (1620–1743),” proceeding to the revolutionaries’ “Emergent National Literature (1743–1826),” and culminating with the triumphal achievement of “A National Literature and Romantic Individualism (1826–1861).” For those authors and texts that didn’t quite fit their nation-based teleological schema, Brooks et al. created an oxymoronic subcategory, “Literature of the Nonliterary World,” where supposedly nonliterary and non-national African American and Native American writers were collected. Race therefore emerged as an ancillary but not irrelevant excess within an anthology that sought to present seamless connections among race, nation, and literature. Native American writers, for example, complicated the various ideas of the national espoused by the Puritans and American Revolutionaries, while Frederick Douglass’s position within the anthology as a figure of the “nonliterary world” signaled the extent to which the literary itself lay uneasily within the editors’ national frame.

But perhaps the editors were simply prescient in relegating Douglass to their non-national grouping, for their selected text, an excerpt from My Bondage and My Freedom (1855), was published only a few years before Douglass began to express an interest in emigrating to Haiti. Though he never did emigrate, he retained his fascination, traveled to Hispaniola in 1871 to ask inhabitants what they thought about becoming a black state in a hypothetical American Union, and served as U.S. minister and consul general to Haiti from 1889 to 1891. He was so admired by Haitian leaders that they chose him as their . . .

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