American Literature: New Narratives, New Paradigms

Kenneth Warren, University of Chicago

At a moment when its central concepts—historicism as a mode of literary study, the coherence of national and ethnic literatures, and the distinctiveness of the literary—are (once again?) under some pressure, American literary study faces the challenge of making perspicuous its interpretive assumptions and operational protocols. Perhaps symptomatic of this moment is Peter Dimock’s attempt in his recent novel, George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time, “to recover an American sense of history before . . . the triumphant narrative of a redeeming national American greatness became popularly established in George Bancroft’s multi-volume History of the United States, from the Discovery of the American Continent” (159).

This seminar invites papers that seek to reconsider 19th century literary texts and/or the scholarly reception of those texts in relation to the constitution of American literary study as a field of inquiry.

Kenneth W. Warren is the author of What Was African American Literature? (Harvard 2011), So Black and Blue: Ralph Ellison and the Occasion of Criticism (Chicago 2003), and Black and White Strangers: Race and American Literary Realism (Chicago 1993). He is coeditor with Adolph Reed, Jr. of Renewing Black Intellectual History: The Ideological and Material Foundations of African American Thought (Paradigm 2009), and with Tess Chakkalakal of a forthcoming volume of essays, Jim Crow, Literature, and the Legacy of Sutton E. Griggs (Georgia 2013).

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