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The Global Remapping of American Literature

The Global Remapping of American Literature

Paul Giles
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 340
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  • Book Info
    The Global Remapping of American Literature
    Book Description:

    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 Literaturereorients the subject for the transnational era.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3651-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. INTRODUCTION: The Deterritorialization of American Literature
    (pp. 1-26)

    The theme of this book is the relationship between American literature and global space and how this equation has fluctuated and evolved over time. My concern will be not only with works of fiction or poetry that are organized explicitly around particular conceptions of place but also with how a wide range of texts are informed implicitly by other kinds of geographical projection, of the type found in cartography and other forms of mapping. My thesis will be that the interrelation between American literature and geography, far from being something that can be taken as natural, involves contested terrain, terrain...

  6. Part One: Temporal Latitudes

    • CHAPTER 1 Augustan American Literature: An Aesthetics of Extravagance
      (pp. 29-69)

      As Karen Ordahl Kupperman has noted, the study of geography “blossomed” in Europe after Christopher Columbus’s voyages of the 1490s (1), with the New World becoming central to discursive treatments of space that moved away from medieval symbolic maps with Jerusalem at their center. Under the influence of navigation, exploration, and, by extension, the allure of wealth, there was increasing interest in how different spatial perspectives could be aligned with new ways of seeing the world. The ancient Roman geographer and astronomer Ptolemy enjoyed his own renaissance at this time, and the force of Ptolemy’s description of geography as a...

    • CHAPTER 2 Medieval American Literature: Antebellum Narratives and the “Map of the Infinite”
      (pp. 70-108)

      After the revolution, American literature did not so much boldly anticipate the future as brood uneasily on the new nation’s fractious relationship to the past. While the very notion of medieval American literature might seem oxymoronic, the purpose of this chapter is to consider ways in which such a formulation not only makes a paradoxical kind of sense but might be seen as integral to the construction of the subject more generally. In itself, the idea of medieval American literature is hardly more peculiar than F. O. Matthiessen’s once apparently oddball but now thoroughly naturalized conception of an “American Renaissance.”...

  7. Part Two: The Boundaries of the Nation

    • CHAPTER 3 The Arcs of Modernism: Geography as Allegory
      (pp. 111-140)

      “To deprovincialize American history,” writes Thomas Bender, “we must learn to juggle the variables of time and space, to genuinely historicize both temporal and spatial relations” (9). The purpose of this chapter is to consider how the lineaments of U.S. national identity were shaped and consolidated by three wars over a span of eighty years: the Civil War, from 1861 to 1865; World War I, which the United States entered in 1917; and World War II, which ended in 1945. During this period, the United States effectively mapped itself out as a continental nation, and by 1941, the editor of...

    • CHAPTER 4 Suburb, Network, Homeland: National Space and the Rhetoric of Broadcasting
      (pp. 141-180)

      In the second half of the twentieth century, the conceptual visibility of space within American culture changed considerably, with Edward W. Soja inPostmodern Geographies(1989) arguing for “the reassertion of a critical spatial perspective in contemporary social theory” (2). The contribution of geographers such as Soja and David Harvey was to restore what Harvey called a “geographical materialism” (Condition359) to sublimated forms of institutional cartography, thereby revealing ways in which modernist notions of hermeneutic and topographic centers, which were particularly prevalent between the world wars, encompassed hierarchical claims about authority that their purported transcendence of spatial dimensions tended...

  8. Part Three: Spatial Longitudes

    • CHAPTER 5 Hemispheric Parallax: South America and the American South
      (pp. 183-222)

      Having outlined the different historical conditions that have framed the formation of American literature, the aim of this book’s third section is to exemplify how the contours of this field have changed over time by examining the shifting geospatial dynamics associated with two specific areas of the contemporary United States: the South and the Pacific Northwest. These historical and geographical dimensions are intertwined, since to expand the temporal map of American literature is also implicitly to problematize its traditional segmentations of space, the ways in which certain parts of the U.S. domain have become institutionally attached to particular academic agendas....

    • CHAPTER 6 Metaregionalism: The Global Pacific Northwest
      (pp. 223-254)

      Writing of contemporary Italian poetry, Elettra Bedon coined the termmetaregionalism(17) to describe a self-conscious manipulation of certain forms of dialect, including the deliberate “use of archaic terms and the creation of neologisms” (21) to convey a sense of the constructed rather than the authentic nature of regional identity. On analogy with metafiction, which similarly assumes a reflexive relation to conventions of novelistic realism, metaregionalism might be said to foreground the assumptions involved in traditional ascriptions of place. On one level, of course, all regionalism is necessarily metaregional, since the idea of a region can operate only by positioning...

  9. CONCLUSION: American Literature and the Question of Circumference
    (pp. 255-268)

    While the termAmerican literature, as William C. Spengemann records, was first used in the 1780s, in the immediate aftermath of the country’s political separation from Great Britain (Mirror152), the first university course in this subject was not taught until 1875, by Moses Coit Tyler at the University of Michigan (Graff 211). As noted in chapter 2, Tyler also published in 1878 the firstHistory of American Literature, intended originally to be a “history of American literature from the earliest English settlements in this country, down to the present time” (v), although the later parts of his survey were...

  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 269-304)
  11. Index
    (pp. 305-325)