Cultural Difference and the Literary Text: Pluralism and the Limits of Authenticity in North American Literature
edited by Winfried Siemerling and Katrin Schwenk
University of Iowa Press, 1997
Paper: 978-0-87745-566-0 | eISBN: 978-1-58729-222-4
Library of Congress Classification PS153.M56C85 1996
Dewey Decimal Classification 810.9920693


This dynamic, open-minded collection of essays responds to the issues raised by Werner Sollors when he argues against the rigidity of cultural pluralism, against the ethnic group-by-group segregation of American literature. Instead he calls for an openly transethinic recognition of cross-cultural interplays and connections among all so-called groups and their canons. In enthusiastic response to such issues, the contributors explore a variety of approaches to pluralism, multiculturalism, group identity, and the problematics of authenticity in literary texts and criticism both historically and currently.

The scholars in this civil, persuasive volume are at home in an international world that crosses linguistic, cultural, and national boundaries. They thus transcend the customary restrictions of earlier, relatively isolationist scholarship to form new, nonpolemical links among cultural identities. This relationship between oral modes of communal identity and writing in tribal cultures joins an examination of Houston Baker's discursive strategies. A consideration of ethnic humor in the writings of Zora Neale Hurston and Jerre Mangione and a discussion of Jean Toomer's racial persona offer striking contextualizations. Two contributors study discursive constructions of mestizaje in Chicano/a texts, followed by essays on cultural difference in Faulkner's Light in August and Roth's Call It Sleep.Finally, Werner Sollers's essay extends the interactions among all these energetic, nonjudgmental dialogues.

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