Literary Culture and U.S. Imperialism: From the Revolution to World War II

Literary Culture and U.S. Imperialism: From the Revolution to World War II

Literary Culture and U.S. Imperialism: From the Revolution to World War II

Literary Culture and U.S. Imperialism: From the Revolution to World War II

Synopsis

John Carlos Rowe, considered one of the most eminent and progressive critics of American literature, has in recent years become instrumental in shaping the path of American studies. His latest book examines literary responses to U.S. imperialism from the late eighteenth century to the 1940s. Interpreting texts by Charles Brockden Brown, Poe, Melville, John Rollin Ridge, Twain, Henry Adams, Stephen Crane, W. E. B. Du Bois, John Neihardt, Nick Black Elk, and Zora Neale Hurston, Rowe argues that U.S. literature has a long tradition of responding critically or contributing to our imperialist ventures. Following in the critical footsteps of Richard Slotkin and Edward Said, Literary Culture and U.S. Imperialism is particularly innovative in taking account of the public and cultural response to imperialism. In this sense it could not be more relevant to what is happening in the scholarship, and should be vital reading for scholars and students of American literature and culture.

Excerpt

This book grew out of my research on the special part played by U.S. culture in the conduct of, political protest against, and historical representation of the Vietnam War. In my efforts to understand the historical backgrounds of our foreign policies in Southeast Asia, I studied earlier examples of U.S. conduct toward peoples and territories considered "foreign," as well as the responses by writers and artists to formal U.S. policies. What began simply as the consideration of historical examples to test various claims to the unique or traditional aspects of our foreign policies in Southeast Asia eventually became a subject in its own right. This book is, then, an extended introduction to my next book, which will focus centrally on U.S. neoimperialism in the post-World War II period and deal with the many different media--film, television, music, literature, and computer technology--that have contributed to and at times challenged the global authority of the United States.

Much is written today about culture's role in imperialism both as it was practiced in the era of the great territorial empires controlled by European nation-states and as it has been redefined in our nominally "postcolonial" epoch, but there have been surprisingly few studies of how U.S. culture has contributed centrally to both kinds of imperialism. Of course, influential works on how the "internal colonization" of ethnic minorities and native peoples contributed to our quest for national identity have been fundamental to American Studies since the 1950s. Roy Harvey Pearce, Robert Berkhofer, Richard Drinnon, Richard Slotkin, Annette Kolodny, Reginald Horsman, and Jane Tompkins, among others, have argued convincingly that Manifest Destiny was an imperialist project that relied on hierarchies of race, class. and gender as arbitrary, rigorous, and inherently violent as those employed by the British, French, Dutch, Belgians, Spanish, Portuguese. Germans, and Italians in their colonial ventures around the globe. Yet little has been written to connect Manifest Destiny, antebellum slavery, and the economic rac-

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