American Literature, Like All Other Nationalistic Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1477 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Literature

American Literature, like all other nationalistic literature has had an evolution that marks frequently changing opinions with regard to what are to be included in the voice of literature. What do we consider the "classic" works of American Literature and how do such representations display what is American literature? What it means to be American literature has expanded, as the political and social climate has changed to include previously disenfranchised voices, such as Native Americans as well as disenfranchised immigrants from many nations of origin. One example of this expansion can be found in analogies, as they have grown. Harper Single Volume American Literature is no exception as it has grown with others to more fully express the "American experience" now including works from authors who would not traditionally have been considered valuable or representative of America. (McQuade et al. 1998) Harper now includes works by former slaves, like Fredrick Douglas, as well as works by early feminists, who fought for inclusion of American women in representation and people of immigrant status that does not align with the preferred Western European, English speaking origins. These anthologies are said to, "make it unmistakably clear how culturally diverse and remarkably dynamic American literature has been and continues to be" (Levine, 1996, p. 96)

Some literary critics, as well as students of literature and contemporary authors themselves consider this new emphasis on diversity, as revisionist while still others, and likely the majority applaud the development of new forms of literature and comparative often conflicting points-of-view.

The revisionist emphasis on the contingencies of value is important in "opening up" the American canon: works not included in the canon are no longer under the condemnation of being intrinsically not valuable. It is thus not surprising that the revisionist intervention into the canon has paralleled the work of feminists and African-Americanists. As a result, the major anthologies have continued to increase the representation of both women and African-American writers. (Jung, 2004, p. 213)

The representation of both women and African-American writers is not the only body of inclusion. Contemporary movements have made significant strides toward the inclusion of almost every immigrant group into the canon of American literature and into the body of publishing in general in history and contemporary works. These groups include Asian immigrants, Eastern European Jews, Germans, Italians and of coarse Native Americans who have a rich tradition of their own. Yet, we must remember that this is a relatively new experience and that for the majority of the development of "American Literature" the system was one of elitism that preferred almost exclusively the point-of-view of the Western white male

In a sense the defining characteristics of what it means to be American Literature is simply that it is a written form, poetry, prose or drama that conveys a unique point-of-view of the American experience of growth and change. Some of the most fundamentally moving forms of American literature are immigrant literature. This literature often explores the real and occasionally fictional development of the self, from an immigrant outsider to someone who feels as if they are an American. Edward Said, is speaking of almost any immigrant group and the nature of the differing levels of perceived literary value across the ages.

Although I risk over-simplification, it is probably correct to say that it does not finally matter who wrote what, but rather how a work is written and how it is read. The idea that because Plato and Aristotle are male and the products of a slave society they should be disqualified from receiving contemporary attention is as limited an idea as suggesting that only their work, because it was addressed to and about elites, should be read today. Marginality and homelessness are not, in my opinion, to be gloried in; they are to be brought to an end, so that more, and not fewer, people can enjoy the benefits of what has for centuries been denied the victims of race, class, or gender. (31) (Jay, 1997, p. 20)

In all representations of immigrant literature there is a clear sense that at any time in American history, politically, socially and culturally there is a dominant and/or subjugated immigrant group that was struggling to be accepted by those who had immigrated before them. America is a nation of immigrants and American literature is finally beginning to express this, without quite as much of the elitist literary academic influences. The transition of… [END OF PREVIEW]

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