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Hemispheric American Studies

Hemispheric American Studies

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 366
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  • Book Info
    Hemispheric American Studies
    Book Description:

    This landmark collection brings together a range of exciting new comparative work in the burgeoning field of hemispheric studies. Scholars working in the fields of Latin American studies, Asian American studies, American studies, American literature, African Diaspora studies, and comparative literature address the urgent question of how scholars might reframe disciplinary boundaries within the broad area of what is generally called American studies. The essays take as their starting points such questions as: What happens to American literary, political, historical, and cultural studies if we recognize the interdependency of nation-state developments throughout all the Americas? What happens if we recognize the nation as historically evolving and contingent rather than already formed? Finally, what happens if the "fixed" borders of a nation are recognized not only as historically produced political constructs but also as component parts of a deeper, more multilayered series of national and indigenous histories?With essays that examine stamps, cartoons, novels, film, art, music, travel documents, and governmental publications, Hemispheric American Studies seeks to excavate the complex cultural history of texts and discourses across the ever-changing and stratified geopolitical and cultural fields that collectively comprise the American hemisphere. This collection promises to chart new directions in American literary and cultural studies.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4387-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Essays Beyond the Nation
    (pp. 1-17)

    In 1973 an editorial team at Yale University publishedAmerican Literature: The Makers and the Making, the most influential American literary anthology of the decade.¹ This two-volume work both exemplified the state of the field and set the direction of Americanist literary criticism for the next ten to fifteen years. As framed by the editors, Cleanth Brooks, R. W. B. Lewis, and Robert Penn Warren, the selections in the first volume charted a tripartite literary development beginning with the Puritans’ “Pre-National Literature (1620–1743),” proceeding to the revolutionaries’ “Emergent National Literature (1743–1826),” and culminating with the triumphal achievement of...

  5. 1 Hemispheric Jamestown
    (pp. 18-35)

    Near the middle of the earliest known novel of the African American literary tradition, William Wells Brown’s 1853Clotel, the narrator looks back across the centuries and juxtaposes two ships, theMayflowerand an unnamed vessel, both in mid-transatlantic route and approaching the eastern shores of the future United States. TheMayflower, bound for Plymouth Rock, projects “the voice of prayer … and the glorious music of praise”; the other vessel, “a low rakish ship hastening from the tropics,” resounds by contrast with the “cry of despair and … the crack of the flesh-cutting whip”: the historical echoes of slavery’s...

  6. 2 The Hemispheric Genealogies of “Race”: Creolization and the Cultural Geography of Colonial Difference across the Eighteenth-Century Americas
    (pp. 36-56)

    In the wake of the postcolonial studies movement, early American literary scholarship across disciplinary boundaries has focused on the role that “race” played in European imperial expansionism and colonialism in the New World. Literary scholars and historians alike have generally proceeded from a historical notion of race as it emerged in the nineteenth century—as a transnational discourse of identity and difference based on biological factors, such as skin color (i.e., the “white,” “black,” “red,” “brown,” or “yellow” race)—and then traced the “origins” of this modern concept back to English colonialism in the seventeenth century,¹ the Spanish conquests of...

  7. 3 “La Famosa Filadelfia”: The Hemispheric American City and Constitutional Debates
    (pp. 57-74)

    Ten days after he arrived in “la famosa Filadelfia” in April 1824, José María Heredia penned a letter to an uncle in which he offered a descriptive map and architectural account of the city. “A thousand times you must have heard that it is one of the most uniform cities in the world, and it is true,” wrote Heredia, in exile after authorities in Cuba discovered his participation in a revolutionary plot.¹ As if recounting an afternoon stroll, Heredia methodically noted the most important features of Philadelphia: its banks, churches, and public works. “Without doubt,” he exclaimed about the Bank...

  8. 4 The Other Country: Mexico, the United States, and the Gothic History of Conquest
    (pp. 75-95)

    In the introduction to Robert Montgomery Bird’s 1834Calavar, or, The Knight of the Conquest, an American wandering through Mexico sits on Chapultepec hill and muses on Mexico’s pre-conquest history. The Toltecs first populated Mexico, the American imagines, and were “the most civilized of which Mexican hieroglyphics … have preserved in memory.” Other tribes followed, but none brought civilization until the Aztecs. “[F]rom this herd of barbarians,” the American thinks, “grew … the magnificent empire of the Montezumas, … heaving again with the impulses of nascent civilization.” Finally, the “voice of the Old World” rolls over the eastern mountains, but...

  9. 5 An American Mediterranean: Haiti, Cuba, and the American South
    (pp. 96-115)

    Octavia Walton was a classic Southern “belle.” She was also widely regarded as “one of nature’s cosmopolites, a woman to whom the whole world was home.”¹ The granddaughter of Virginian George Walton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Octavia had been raised in the polyglot surrounds of Pensacola, a frontier naval port in the Florida territory, and schooled in a half dozen languages and literatures by an “old Scottish tutor.” She grew up with the children of Anglophone colonists, Spanish settlers, Haitian exiles, mulattoes, slaves, and Seminoles, and earned great fame in the South for her internationalist orientation, her...

  10. 6 Expropriating The Great South and Exporting “Local Color”: Global and Hemispheric Imaginaries of the First Reconstruction
    (pp. 116-139)

    An exceptionalist narrative of U.S. cultural history poses both the process of Reconstruction following the Civil War, and the so-called local color writing in which it was registered, against the golden age of European empire in the late Victorian era. The denomination “local color” itself indicates—as clearly as does the name “Civil War”—that this most popular form of postbellum writing explores a geopolitical specificity purely of the intra- or subnational variety. In opposition to the global consciousness and designs of Europeans scrambling for Africa in the 1870s, U.S. citizens appear turned inward, recovering from their collective trauma by...

  11. 7 The Mercurial Space of “Central” America: New Orleans, Honduras, and the Writing of the Banana Republic
    (pp. 140-165)

    The poet-provocateur Guillermo Gómez-Peña offers this “turn-of-the-century geography lesson” in “The Last Migration: A Spanglish Opera”:

    dear reader/ dear audience

    repeat with me out loud:

    México es California …

    Puerto Rico es New York

    Centroamérica es Los Angeles

    Honduras es New Orleans …¹

    This equation of New Orleans with Honduras, placed as it is in the midst of more prominent U.S. sites undergoing “Latinization,” may have escaped notice at the moment when “The Last Migration” was first published in 1996. But in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the much-remarked transformation of traditional ethonoracial communities along the U.S. Gulf Coast...

  12. 8 “Iʹm the Everybody Whoʹs Nobody”: Genealogies of the New World Slave in Paul Robesonʹs Performances of the 1930s
    (pp. 166-186)

    In 1939, after traveling for a number of years throughout Europe and Africa, the African American actor and singer Paul Robeson returned home with his family to Harlem. Almost immediately he was asked to perform the song “Ballad for Americans” in a radio broadcast that aired later that year. In his biography of Robeson, Martin Duberman describes the broadcast as “an instant sensation,” bringing Robeson a level of acclaim that mirrored his earlier rise as a concert singer of the spirituals.² In the 1920s, however, both black and white American audiences understood Robeson to be conveying in the spirituals the...

  13. 9 The Promises and Perils of U.S. African American Hemispherism: Latin America in Martin Delanyʹs Blake and Gayl Jonesʹs Mosquito
    (pp. 187-205)

    Both Martin Delany, in his advocacy of U.S. African American emigration to Latin America, and Gayl Jones, in her call for U.S. African Americans to be “international” and “not just provincial,” argue that engaging the world beyond the United States is crucial to their community’s struggle to be acknowledged as equal to European Americans.¹ They are voices in long-standing debates over whether this battle is most effectively fought by U.S. African Americans embracing a supra-national conceptualization of community that negates the salience of national boundaries, or by emphasizing their connection to the United States and demanding what Rebecca Scott describes...

  14. 10 PEN and the Sword: U.S.–Latin American Cultural Diplomacy and the 1966 PEN Club Congress
    (pp. 206-222)

    In June of 1966, the International PEN¹ Club held its annual conference in New York City. This was the first time in forty-two years that the United States had hosted the meeting. Arthur Miller had just been elected president of the organization and the week-long congress, which drew more than 600 people from 56 countries, marked a moment of international prestige for PEN. Committed to promoting understanding and defending free expression, conference organizers sought to provide authors from all ideological backgrounds with an opportunity to communicate with one another and to create an environment in which Cold War politics were...

  15. 11 The Hemispheric Routes of “El Nuevo Arte Nuestro”: The Pan American Union, Cultural Policy, and the Cold War
    (pp. 223-248)

    In 1948 the Organization of American States (OAS) became the supreme governmental body of the inter-American system, while the name of its predecessor organization, the Pan American Union (PAU), continued to refer to the Organization’s General Secretariat in Washington, D.C. Undergirded by two farreaching hemispheric security treaties, the Organization envisioned a cultural arm to round out its hemispheric profile, and in this regard, a relatively small office at the Pan American Union known as the Visual Arts Division emerged to play a singular role among U.S.-based arts institutions in the two decades following World War II. Previously, during the Good...

  16. 12 Memín Pinguín, Rumba, and Racism: Afro-Mexicans in Classic Comics and Film
    (pp. 249-265)

    In early summer of 2005, the Mexican government issued a series of four postage stamps commemorating the comic book antihero, Memín Pinguín, a little Afro-Mexican boy created in the 1940s by Yolanda Vargas Dulché (see Figure 1). Memín quickly became the source of a diplomatic conflict, inciting raucous cross-border bickering about the comic’s alleged racism. The debate was articulated in exclusively binational terms: to critics in the United States, the popularity of Memín signaled Mexico’s inherent racism, while Memín’s Mexican defenders claimed that neither theMemín Pinguíncomic nor its Mexican readers were racist, and that U.S. critics, products of...

  17. 13 “Out of This World”: Islamic Irruptions in the Literary Americas
    (pp. 266-293)

    Wallace Stevens’s poem represents the enigmatic impact of the moon‘s light moving across the floor of his room as the ethnic necromancy of a mysterious Arabian. Stevens figures poetry itself as an unearthly source of light that illuminates most fully when the hemisphere is shrouded in the darkness of night. The errant orbit of the crescent, symbolic of Islam, provides an outlying vantage point freed from the earth’s terracentric singularity. Such strangeness casts an indecipherable pall over continental complacencies while still influencing the ebb and flow of oceans. Other instances of Islamic irruptions explored in this essay share some of...

  18. 14 Of Hemispheres and Other Spheres: Navigating Karen Tei Yamashitaʹs Literary World
    (pp. 294-312)

    Although Asian American literary studies has in recent decades taken the “transnational turn” that Shelley Fisher Fishkin has described of contemporary American studies generally,¹ the particular rubric of “hemispheric studies” has not found as much traction in the field as, for example, “diasporic” or “Pacific Rim studies.” Aside from a smattering of works that attend to Canada in a substantial way, most transnationally inclined criticism in Asian American studies has been more involved in mining understudied or otherwise occluded east-west connections than in looking critically north or south. This turn toward the transnational has also been accompanied by a certain...

  19. 15 The Northern Borderlands and Latino Canadian Diaspora
    (pp. 313-327)

    The title of Carmen Aguirre’s play¿Que Pasa with La Raza, eh?(2000) entices us with a provocative fusion of linguistic and cultural referents.¹La raza, a synonym forla genteorel pueblo(the people), refers to the imagined community of Latin American people of diverse races and backgrounds. The juxtaposition of English and Spanish words implies an audience familiar with both languages. Most intriguingly, the interjection “eh” at the end of a question written largely in Spanish gestures to a Canadian interlocutor. Beginning with the inverted question mark particular to Spanish and ending with Canadian English, Aguirre’s title...

  20. Afterword: The Times of Hemispheric Studies
    (pp. 328-336)

    In 1998, on the occasion of the centennial of the Spanish-American/Cuban War, there was a flurry of attention in U.S. studies to things hemispheric. This turned out to be just one of many moments of identity crisis for the field. The self-questioning extended from the objects of study to the very name of “American Studies.” From 1998, looking both backward and forward, first (roughly speaking), during the canon busting of the 1970s and 1980s, it was our texts that came under scrutiny and, almost simultaneously, under the pressures of New Historicism, our contexts; then, with the concept of imagined communities...

    (pp. 337-340)
  22. INDEX
    (pp. 341-356)