By Werner Sollors
Not anything is "pure" in the United States, and, certainly, the wealthy ethnic combine that constitutes our society bills for far of its remarkable power. Werner Sollors's new ebook takes a wide-ranging examine the position of "ethnicity" in American literature and what that literature has said--and keeps to say--about our assorted tradition. Ethnic realization, he contends, is a constituent characteristic of modernism, now not modernism's antithesis. Discussing works from each interval of yank background, Sollors focuses fairly at the pressure among "descent" and "consent"--between the worry for one's racial, ethnic, and familial history and the conflicting wish to decide upon one's personal future, no matter if that selection is going opposed to one's historical past. a number of the tales Sollors examines are retellings of the biblical Exodus--stories during which americans 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 could both triumph in intermarriage, observed by way of new international symphonies, or finish with the fanatics' dying. nonetheless different tales main issue voyages of self-discovery during which the hero makes an attempt to lead a dangerous direction among obdurate traditionalism and overall assimilation. after which there are the generational sagas, during which, as though through 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 exhibits how the creators of yankee tradition have regularly been drawn to what's such a lot new and sleek. A provocative and unique examine "ethnicity" in American literature ·Covers tales from all sessions of our nation's heritage ·Relates ethnic literature to the primary of literary modernism ·"Grave and hilarious, soft and merciless...The booklet plays a public service."-Quentin Anderson
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Extra info for Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture
It is as if it were representing in an egalitarian society a resurgence of what was differently and more directly and naturally expressed in a hierarchical society. (Dolgin, Symbolic 84) The concepts of the self-made man and of Jim Crow had their origins in the same culture at about the same time, whereas aristocratic societies had no need for either. At the same time when consent language began to speak of the accident of one's birth, there were certain forms of descent which were considered to be of the greatest determining power.
Stowe's AngloSaxons, on the other hand, were a "cool, logical, and practical" race. They should remember, Stowe wrote in The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (1853), that God gave the Bible "to them in the fervent language and with the glowing imagery of the more susceptible and passionate Ori- 30 BEYOND ETHNICITY ental races" (46). To Harriet Beecher Stowe, Jews and Africans were closer to the spirit of the Bible than Anglo-Saxons who had fallen into the place of Pharisaic concern for the letter of the law.
In one of James Fenimore Cooper's last novels, The Oak Openings (1858), the Indians are seen as "the chosen people of the Great Spirit, and will one day be received back to his favor. Would that I were one of them, only enlightened by the words of the New Testament" (Fiedler, Love 199). , William Herbert) compared the slave woman Tituba favorably with Whalley, her Puritan master: "There w a s . . more of the true, the lowly, and the grateful spirit of the Christian, in that poor, overtasked, despised, scourged heathen, than in her haughty master, who like the pharisee blessed God that he was not as other men are" (Bell, Hawthorne 95).