The Search for a Method in American Studies was first published in 1973. Among scholars in the field of American Studies there has been intensive discussion for some years over the possibility of developing a systematic interdisciplinary method for the study of American culture. Professor Tate contributes significantly to the development of such a method by presenting a summary view or platform from which to survey the assumptions and achievements of American Studies. Commenting on the book, Professor Harold H. Kolb, Jr., of the University of Virginia writes: “The work is timely since Americans seem to be presently engaged in rethinking not only American Studies, but also interdisciplinary relationships, the entire climate of academic studies, and cultural concepts and values. Mr. Tate contributes intelligently to these currents of revaluation. And I think his conclusions -- synthetic and eclectic, able to see the strengths and limitations of a variety of different and often opposed points of view -- are sound and useful.” The author explores two central concepts as they have come to be used in American Studies, holism and myth, by examining four key works: Roy Harvey Pearce’s The Continuity of American Poetry, Henry Nash Smith’s Virgin Land, John William Ward’s Andrew Jackson, and R. W. Lewis’s The American Adam. In his consideration he assesses the achievements and limitations of organic holism and goes on to consider some extensions of the central concepts: American Studies as a reply to the New Critics, the problem of language and culture, the concept of national character, and literary nationalism. He shows that much of the scholarly writing in the field exhibits a true originality which can be defined as a unique American Studies methods, but he also emphasizes the need to explore alternatives to holism, such as structuralism, for, as he explains, “it seems to me that we have most to learn from structural anthropology and linguistics, which once again have raised the possibility of the unity of knowledge.”
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