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American World Literature: An Introduction

Paul Giles

ISBN: 978-1-119-43180-0 December 2018 Wiley-Blackwell 232 Pages



A scholarly review of American world literature from early times to the postmodernist era

American World Literature: An Introduction explores how the subject of American Literature has evolved from a national into a global phenomenon. As the author, Paul Giles – a noted expert on the topic – explains, today American Literature is understood as engaging with the wider world rather than merely with local or national circumstances. The book offers an examination of these changing conceptions of representation in both a critical and an historical context.

The author examines how the perception of American culture has changed significantly over time and how this has been an object of widespread social and political debate. From examples of early American literature to postmodernism, the book charts ways in which the academic subject areas of American Literature and World Literature have converged – and diverged – over the past generations.

Written for students of American literature at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels and in all areas of historical specialization, American World Literature offers an authoritative guide to global phenomena of American World literature and how this subject has undergone crucial changes in perception over the past thirty years.

Acknowledgments vi

1 The Theory of American World Literature 1

References 25

2 Early American Literature in the World 30

2.1 Contact Zones and Extended Scales 30

2.2 The Classical Counternarrative 41

2.3 The Early American Novel’s Transatlantic Axis 51

2.4 Thomas Paine and Universal Order 63

References 69

3 National/Global: The Framing of Nineteenth‐Century American Literature 75

3.1 National Agendas and Transnational Dialogues 75

3.2 Slavery’s Global Compass 92

3.3 Planetary Space and Intellectual Distance 113

References 119

4 The Worlds of American Modernism 126

4.1 The American Novel and the Great War 126

4.2 The Esthetics of Contradiction 146

4.3 American Studies and World Literature: The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath 156

References 165

5 Postmodernism, Globalization, and US Literary Culture 171

5.1 The Politics of Postmodernism 171

5.2 Styles of Globalization 176

5.3 Disorientation and Reorientation: Kincaid, Morrison, Kingston 193

References 202

Index 208