By Werner Sollors
Not anything is "pure" in the US, and, certainly, the wealthy ethnic combine that constitutes our society bills for a lot of its impressive power. Werner Sollors's new publication takes a wide-ranging examine the function of "ethnicity" in American literature and what that literature has said--and maintains to say--about our varied tradition. Ethnic realization, he contends, is a constituent function of modernism, no longer modernism's antithesis. Discussing works from each interval of yankee background, Sollors focuses rather at the pressure among "descent" and "consent"--between the fear for one's racial, ethnic, and familial history and the conflicting wish to opt for one's personal future, whether that selection is going opposed to one's history. a number of the tales Sollors examines are retellings of the biblical Exodus--stories during which american citizens of the main various origins have painted their very own histories as an break out from bondage or a look for a brand new Canaan. different tales are "American-made" stories of melting-pot romance, that can both triumph in intermarriage, followed by way of new international symphonies, or finish with the enthusiasts' demise. nonetheless different tales predicament voyages of self-discovery during which the hero makes an attempt to lead a deadly direction among obdurate traditionalism and overall assimilation. after which there are the generational sagas, during which, as though via magic, the 3rd iteration emerges because the achievement in their forebears' dream. bringing up examples that variety from the writings of Cotton Mather to Liquid Sky (a "post-punk" technological know-how fiction movie directed by way of a Russian emigre), Sollors indicates how the creators of yank tradition have mostly been drawn to what's so much new and sleek. A provocative and unique examine "ethnicity" in American literature ·Covers tales from all sessions of our nation's background ·Relates ethnic literature to the primary of literary modernism ·"Grave and hilarious, soft and merciless...The e-book plays a public service."-Quentin Anderson
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Additional info for Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture
I shall furthermore assume that historical forces operate across the board, even though they may appear in particular ethnic emanations, creating such phenomena of trans-ethnic importance as the Beat Generation. A good illustration of literature as such a cultural code is provided by the carefully detailed ethnic rooms which appear in American writing as obvious maps for characters and readers. A good example from the mid-nineteenth century appears in Emil Klauprecht's novel Cincinnati; oder, Geheimnisse des Western (1853-54)—which is, incidentally, also full of hymns of revulsion toward the Queen City of the 16 BEYOND ETHNICITY West; it is the meticulously detailed description of the Hotel Dumas, frequented by free colored travelers.
Schechter then sketched the following context in order to illustrate his assertion: The history of the United States does not begin with the Red Indian, and the genesis of its spiritual life is not to be traced back to the vagaries of some peculiar sects. This country is, as everybody knows, a creation of the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, and the Bible is still holding its own, exercising enormous influence as a real spiritual power, in spite of all the destructive tendencies, mostly of foreign make.
This has been true of all the main bases of particularistic solidarity, ethnicity, religion, regionalism, state's rights and class. Today, more than ever before, we are witnessing an acceleration in the emancipation of individuals of all categories from these diffuse particularistic solidarities. (739) In the introduction to their influential collection Ethnicity: Theory and Experience (1975), Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan added the term "radical expectancy" in order to describe the belief that "class circumstances would become the main line of division 20 Beyond Ethnicity 21 between people, erasing the earlier lines of tribe, language, religion, and national origin, and that thereafter these class divisions would themselves, after revolution, disappear" (7).