time since American literature became an object of study in America
higher education, we are no longer setting our watches to global renaissance time.
Jürgen Habermas, "Modernity: An Incomplete Project", in
Hal Foster, ed., The Anti-
Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture (Port Townsend, Wash.: Bay Press, 1983), pp. 3-15.
For a brilliant neo-Habermasian critique of poststructuralism that also distances itself from Habermas's reliance on reason, see Amanda Anderson, "Cryptonormativism and
Double Gestures: Reconceiving Poststructuralist Social Theory", Cultural Critique, no. 21
( 1992), pp. 63-95.
Eric Sundquist, "Slavery, Revolution, and the American Renaissance", in
Walter Benn Michaels
Donald E. Pease, eds, The American Renaissance Reconsidered, Selected Papers from the English Institute, no. 9 ( Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985),
p. 6; hereafter cited in the text.
One could also say that the scholars who announced a new American studies just
happened to specialize in the American Renaissance, Q.E.D. In some ways it is 'as simple
as that', we could say, and yet--as I'll explain below in my reading of Philip Fisher's introduction to The New American Studies--the fact of disciplinary specialization does not (and
should not) preclude one from elaborating one's theoretical and historical conditions of possibility.
See Cathy N. Davidson, Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America ( New
York: Oxford University Press, 1986); Philip Fisher, Hard Facts: Setting and Form in the American Novel ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1985); Amy Kaplan, The Social Construction of
American Realism ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Walter Berm Michaels, The
Gold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism: American Literature at the Turn of the Century ( Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1987); and Michael Warner, The Letters of the Republic:
Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century America ( Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990).
Jonathan Arac, "F. O. Matthiessen: Authorizing an American Renaissance", in Michaels and
Pease, eds, American Renaissance Reconsidered, p. 94.
Donald Pease, "Introduction", in
Pease, eds, The American Renaissance
Reconsidered, p. vii.
Sacvan Bercovitch and
Myra Jehlen, eds, Ideology and Classic American Literature ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986); Lauren Berlant, The Anatomy of a National Fantasy:
Hawthorne, Utopia, and Everyday Life ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Donald Pease
, Visionary Compacts: American Renaissance Writings in Cultural Context ( Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press, 1987). It is for this reason, accordingly, that Frederick Crews's
review of 'New Americanists' is entitled 'Whose American Renaissance?' The essay was
originally published in the New York Review of Books, 27 October 1988, pp. 68-81, and is
now the lead essay in The Critics Bear It Away: American Fiction and the Academy ( New York: Random House, 1992), pp. 16-46; hereafter cited in the text. Crews's essay does not treat
Berlant, needless to say, but does apply the term 'New Americanist' to critics such as Arac, Bercovitch, Fisher, Jehlen, Michaels, Pease, Russell Reising, Richard Slotkin, and Jane
Philip Fisher, "Introduction: The New American Studies", in The New American Studies
( Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1991), p. xv; hereafter cited in the text.
For Pease's reply to Frederick Crews, see Donald Pease, "New Americanists: Revisionist
Interventions into the Canon", boundary 2, vol. 17, no. 1 ( 1990), pp. 1-37; for an update, see Pease, "National Identities, Postmodern Artifacts, and Postnational Narratives", boundary 2,
vol. 19, no. 1 ( 1992), pp. 1-13.