Emergent U.S. Literatures

Emergent U.S. Literatures: From Multiculturalism to Cosmopolitanism in the Late-Twentieth-Century

Cyrus R. K. Patell
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Emergent U.S. Literatures
    Book Description:

    Emergent U.S. Literaturesintroduces readers to the foundational writers and texts produced by four literary traditions associated with late-twentieth-century US multiculturalism. Examining writing by Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and gay and lesbian Americans after 1968, Cyrus R. K. Patell compares and historicizes what might be characterized as the minority literatures within "U.S. minority literature."

    Drawing on recent theories of cosmopolitanism, Patell presents methods for mapping the overlapping concerns of the texts and authors of these literatures during the late twentieth century. He discusses the ways in which literary marginalization and cultural hybridity combine to create the grounds for literature that is truly "emergent" in Raymond Williams's sense of the term-literature that produces "new meanings and values, new practices, new relationships and kinds of relationships" in tension with the dominant, mainstream culture of the United States. By enabling us to see the American literary canon through the prism of hybrid identities and cultures, these texts require us to reevaluate what it means to write (and read) in the American grain.Emergent U.S. Literaturesgives readers a sense of how these foundational texts work as aesthetic objects--rather than merely as sociological documents--crafted in dialogue with the canonical tradition of so-called "American Literature," as it existed in the late twentieth century, as well as in dialogue with each other.

    eISBN: 978-1-4798-7950-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Theorizing the Emergent
    (pp. 1-18)

    When I was growing up, strangers would ask me, “Where are you from?” and I’d say, “New York” or “the Upper West Side.” They’d look vaguely disappointed: “No, I meant what’s your background.” I wasn’t really being disingenuous, though I was well aware what the first question really meant. It’s just that I never particularly identified with either of my parents’ cultural traditions. My father is a Parsee, born in Karachi, when Karachi was a part of India, and my late mother was a Filipino. They had met at the International House at Columbia University, my father coming from Pakistan...

  5. 1 From Marginal to Emergent
    (pp. 19-46)

    Wittman Ah Sing, the protagonist of Maxine Hong Kingston’s novelTripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book(1989), has a problem. Named for the great poet of American individualism and steeped in American cultural history, Wittman wants to be a latter-day Jack Kerouac, but to his chagrin, he comes to realize that the real Kerouac would never have seen him as a protégé. To Kerouac, Wittman could only have been another Victor Wong, preserved for posterity in Kerouac’s novelBig Sur(1962) as “little Chinese buddy Arthur Ma.”¹ Wittman wants to be an American Artist—he wants to carve a place for...

  6. 2 Nineteenth-Century Roots
    (pp. 47-88)

    In N. Scott Momaday’sHouse Made of Dawn(1968), the Native American protagonist, Abel, is brutally beaten without provocation by a Chicano policeman named Martinez. Richard Rubbio, the Chicano protagonist of José Antonio Villarreal’sPocho(1959), first learns about racism by observing the way his friends discriminate against a Japanese boy named Thomas. And midway through John Okada’sNo-No Boy(1946), a young Japanese American veteran named Kenji realizes that instead of finding ways to unite to achieve common goals, America’s minority cultures continually find ways to discriminate against one another and even against their own members:

    the Negro who...

  7. 3 The Politics of Early Twentieth-Century U.S. Literary History
    (pp. 89-114)

    In the first chapter ofTripmaster Monkey, Wittman Ah Sing tries to impress his date, Nanci, by reading her some of his poetry. She isn’t exactly impressed:

    “You sound black,” she said. “I mean like a Black poet. Jive. Slang. Like LeRoi Jones. Like . . . like Black.”

    He slammed his hand—a fist with a poem in it—down on the desk—fistful of poem. He spit in his genuine brass China Man spittoon, and jumped on top of the desk, squatted there, scratching. “Monkey see, monkey do?” he said. “Huh? Monkey see, monkey do?” Which sounds much...

  8. 4 Liberation Movements
    (pp. 115-186)

    On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s by issuing its landmark decision inBrown v. Board of Education. The Court overturned its ruling inPlessy v. Ferguson(1896), which had legalized segregation according to race. In a unanimous decision, the Court declared that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” and therefore violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution. No longer would states be allowed to create public schools that were segregated according to race. Ten years later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964...

  9. 5 Multiculturalism and Beyond
    (pp. 187-234)

    In April 1988, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of education, William J. Bennett, publicly excoriated Stanford University for transforming its course on “Western Culture” into a course called “Cultures, Ideas and Values” that would include “works by women, minorities and persons of color.”¹ More specifically, the plan set the modest requirement that each student study “at least one work each quarter addressing issues of race, sex or class.” Four years earlier, as head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Bennett had written a special report entitled “To Reclaim a Legacy” in which he argued on behalf of a panel of “31...

  10. Conclusion: Emergent Literatures and Cosmopolitan Conversation
    (pp. 235-240)

    In the course of this study, I have argued that Raymond Williams’s model of culture as the interplay of dominant, residual, and emergent forms offers us a productive way of thinking about the dynamics of both literary cultures and cosmopolitan conversation. Williams’s analysis suggests that human culture has always been the product of conflict and has always depended for its coherence on the identification of certain peoples, ideas, and practices as Other. Whether we believe that this is an abiding and eternal feature of human culture, or instead look forward to the day when human cultures will no longer achieve...

  11. NOTES
    (pp. 241-270)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 271-284)
    (pp. 285-285)