The Global Remapping of American Literature

Princeton University Press
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This book charts how the cartographies of American literature as an institutional category have varied radically across different times and places. Arguing that American literature was consolidated as a distinctively nationalist entity only in the wake of the U.S. Civil War, Paul Giles identifies this formation as extending until the beginning of the Reagan presidency in 1981. He contrasts this with the more amorphous boundaries of American culture in the eighteenth century, and with ways in which conditions of globalization at the turn of the twenty-first century have reconfigured the parameters of the subject.

In light of these fluctuating conceptions of space, Giles suggests new ways of understanding the shifting territory of American literary history. ranging from Cotton Mather to David Foster Wallace, and from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow to Zora Neale Hurston. Giles considers why European medievalism and Native American prehistory were crucial to classic nineteenth-century authors such as Emerson, Hawthorne, and Melville. He discusses how twentieth-century technological innovations, such as air travel, affected representations of the national domain in the texts of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein. And he analyzes how regional projections of the South and the Pacific Northwest helped to shape the work of writers such as William Gilmore Simms, José Martí, Elizabeth Bishop, and William Gibson.

Bringing together literary analysis, political history, and cultural geography, The Global Remapping of American Literature reorients the subject for the transnational era.

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About the author

Paul Giles is the Challis Professor of English at the University of Sydney. His many books include Atlantic Republic and Virtual Americas.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 3, 2011
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Pages
344
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ISBN
9781400836512
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / American / General
Literary Criticism / General
Literary Criticism / Semiotics & Theory
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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As the pace of cultural globalization accelerates, the discipline of literary studies is undergoing dramatic transformation. Scholars and critics focus increasingly on theorizing difference and complicating the geographical framework defining their approaches. At the same time, Anglophone literature is being created by a remarkably transnational, multicultural group of writers exploring many of the same concerns, including the intersecting effects of colonialism, decolonization, migration, and globalization.

Paul Jay surveys these developments, highlighting key debates within literary and cultural studies about the impact of globalization over the past two decades. Global Matters provides a concise, informative overview of theoretical, critical, and curricular issues driving the transnational turn in literary studies and how these issues have come to dominate contemporary global fiction as well. Through close, imaginative readings Jay analyzes the intersecting histories of colonialism, decolonization, and globalization engaged by an array of texts from Africa, Europe, South Asia, and the Americas, including Zadie Smith's White Teeth, Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss, Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things, Vikram Chandra's Red Earth and Pouring Rain, Mohsin Hamid's Moth Smoke, and Zakes Mda's The Heart of Redness.

A timely intervention in the most exciting debates within literary studies, Global Matters is a comprehensive guide to the transnational nature of Anglophone literature today and its relationship to the globalization of Western culture.

Arguing that limited nationalist perspectives have circumscribed the critical scope of American Studies scholarship, Virtual Americas advocates a comparative criticism that illuminates the work of well-known literary figures by defamiliarizing it—placing it in unfamiliar contexts. Paul Giles looks at a number of canonical nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writers by focusing on their interactions with British culture. He demonstrates how American authors from Herman Melville to Thomas Pynchon have been compulsively drawn to negotiate with British culture so that their nationalist agendas have emerged, paradoxically, through transatlantic dialogues. Virtual Americas ultimately suggests that conceptions of national identity in both the United States and Britain have emerged through engagement with—and, often, deliberate exclusion of—ideas and imagery emanating from across the Atlantic.

Throughout Virtual Americas Giles focuses on specific examples of transatlantic cultural interactions such as Frederick Douglass’s experiences and reputation in England; Herman Melville’s satirizing fictions of U.S. and British nationalism; and Vladimir Nabokov’s critique of European high culture and American popular culture in Lolita. He also reverses his perspective, looking at the representation of San Francisco in the work of British-born poet Thom Gunn and Sylvia Plath’s poetic responses to England. Giles develops his theory about the need to defamiliarize the study of American literature by considering the cultural legacy of Surrealism as an alternative genealogy for American Studies and by examining the transatlantic dimensions of writers such as Henry James and Robert Frost in the context of Surrealism.

The discipline of American studies was established in the early days of World War II and drew on the myth of American exceptionalism. Now that the so-called American Century has come to an end, what would a truly globalized version of American studies look like? Brian T. Edwards and Dilip Parameshwar Gaonkar offer a new standard for the field’s transnational aspiration with Globalizing American Studies.

The essays here offer a comparative, multilingual, or multisited approach to ideas and representations of America. The contributors explore unexpected perspectives on the international circulation of American culture: the traffic of American movies within the British Empire, the reception of the film Gone with the Wind in the Arab world, the parallels between Japanese and American styles of nativism, and new incarnations of American studies itself in the Middle East and South Asia. The essays elicit a forgotten multilateralism long inherent in American history and provide vivid accounts of post–Revolutionary science communities, late-nineteenth century Mexican border crossings, African American internationalism, Cold War womanhood in the United States and Soviet Russia, and the neo-Orientalism of the new obsession with Iran, among others.

Bringing together established scholars already associated with the global turn in American studies with contributors who specialize in African studies, East Asian studies, Latin American studies, media studies, anthropology, and other areas, Globalizing American Studies is an original response to an important disciplinary shift in academia.

Arguing that limited nationalist perspectives have circumscribed the critical scope of American Studies scholarship, Virtual Americas advocates a comparative criticism that illuminates the work of well-known literary figures by defamiliarizing it—placing it in unfamiliar contexts. Paul Giles looks at a number of canonical nineteenth- and twentieth-century American writers by focusing on their interactions with British culture. He demonstrates how American authors from Herman Melville to Thomas Pynchon have been compulsively drawn to negotiate with British culture so that their nationalist agendas have emerged, paradoxically, through transatlantic dialogues. Virtual Americas ultimately suggests that conceptions of national identity in both the United States and Britain have emerged through engagement with—and, often, deliberate exclusion of—ideas and imagery emanating from across the Atlantic.

Throughout Virtual Americas Giles focuses on specific examples of transatlantic cultural interactions such as Frederick Douglass’s experiences and reputation in England; Herman Melville’s satirizing fictions of U.S. and British nationalism; and Vladimir Nabokov’s critique of European high culture and American popular culture in Lolita. He also reverses his perspective, looking at the representation of San Francisco in the work of British-born poet Thom Gunn and Sylvia Plath’s poetic responses to England. Giles develops his theory about the need to defamiliarize the study of American literature by considering the cultural legacy of Surrealism as an alternative genealogy for American Studies and by examining the transatlantic dimensions of writers such as Henry James and Robert Frost in the context of Surrealism.

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