American Literature and the Culture Wars 9781501731273

Gregory S. Jay boldly challenges the future of American literary studies. Why pursue the study and teaching of a distinc

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American Literature

the culture wars

GREGORY

co

R N E L L

u

N I

vERsIT

Y

P R E

s.Jay

s s Ithaca & London

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A'MERlCAN

Literature & the CULTURE

Copyright© 1997

Library of Congress

by Cornell University.

Cataloging in Publication Data

All rights reserved.

Jay, Gregory S.

Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or parts

American literature and the culture wars I Gregory S. Jay.

thereof, must not be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.

p.

em.

Includes bibliographical references (p.

) index.

For information, address

ISBN 0-8014-3393-2 (cloth: alk.

Cornell University Press

paper).-ISBN o-8014-8422-7 (pbk. :

Sage House

alk. paper).

512 East State Street

1.

American literature-History and

Ithaca, New York 14850.

criticism-Theory, etc. 2. American

First published 1997 by

literature-Study and teaching-

Cornell University Press.

United States. 3· Pluralism (Social

First printing,

sciences)-United States. 4- Literature

Cornell Paperbacks, 1997.

and society-United States. 5· Multi-

Printed in the

culturalism-United States. 6. Culture

United States of America.

conflict-United States. 7· Canon

Cornell University Press strives to

(Literature) I. Title.

utilize environmentally responsible

PS25.J37 1997 810.9-dC21

suppliers and materials to the fullest extent possible in the publishing of its books. Such materials include vegetable-based, low-VOC inks, and acid-free papers that are also either recycled, totally chlorine-free, or partly composed of nonwood fibers. Cloth printing 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3

2 I

Paperback printing 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3

2

I

97-3948

In memory of my father,

LESTER JAY

contents Acknowledgments, ix Introduction: Making Ends Meet,

I

r

The Struggle for Representation, I 8

2

Not Born on the Fourth ofJuly, 58

3 Taking Multiculturalism Personally,

IOJ

4 The Discipline of the Syllabus, I 36 5 The End of "American" Literature, I6g

Works Cited, 215 Index,

225

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acknowledgments So many people have contributed to the ideas and proposals in this book that I despair of knowing how to acknowledge them all. Since one of my goals is to synthesize and explain the rich new scholarship in American literary studies, I am indebted to everyone who has participated in this movement and apologize in advance to those I overlooked or was not able to cite. During his tenure as editor of College English, Jim Raymond urged contributors to fashion a better dialogue between the concerns of teachers and those of literary and cultural theorists. He challenged me to try writing something for its audience. Scarcely did I anticipate that he and his successor, Louise Smith, would be so hospitable to my efforts or exert such an influence on the direction of my work. Judith Fetterley and Lil Brannon asked me to join the faculty of a summer program sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of ix

English, where I delivered the remarks that eventually became the foundation for Chapter 2. The presentations and conversations at that week-long institute continue to resonate for me to this day. Jane Gallop invited me to present a talk at a conference on pedagogy she organized; this was the hardest writing assignment I can remember and resulted in the first version of Chapter 3, a turning point in the book's development. Marguerite Helmers and Ron Rindo brought me to UW-Oshkosh as a consultant during the revision of the English department curriculum, an experience that gave me material and momentum for Chapter 4· I believe it was Dale Bauer who first suggested that the essays I was writing should be made into a book, and I thank her for spurring me to the task. Donald Pease encouraged me during a troubled time in the manuscript's history and offered a number of helpful comments. Bill Cain responded to the draft version with convincing arguments for substantial cuts and major reorganization, thus prompting me to improve its overall coherence. As I got down to the wire, Patrice Petro took time from an extraordinarily busy schedule to read the manuscript with great care, demonstrating once more the combination of friendship and intellectual community that I so value in her. No one has been a better friend and critical reader during the past six years than Gerald Graff, who also was generous enough to share his office for six months. The experience of arguing, organizing, and writing with Graff proved a constant source of inspiration, even when I thought I would go mad after yet one more call or E-mail questioning a point or sentence I believed we had agreed on. He remains an example to me of clarity, dedication, good humor, and intellectual honesty. I consider myself tremendously fortunate to have had his help. Paul Jay continues to handle with finesse the job of being both a big brother and an intellectual soul mate. It would be ridiculous to try summarizing here all I owe to our mutual adventures. Only he will be able to appreciate just how profoundly my work and life benefit from our multifaceted collaborations. Suffice it to say that I look forward to many more. Over the years my thinking about American literature and the culture wars has benefited from conversations and exchanges with many smart students and generous colleagues. Of special help to me

X

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

were the graduate students in my UW-Milwaukee seminars on literary criticism, nineteenth-century American fiction, contemporary multiculturalism, and the place of ethics in critical theory. Among so many helpful colleagues in Milwaukee and beyond, I thank in particular John Alberti, Randy Bass, David Bergman, Michael Berube, Kimberly Blaeser, Herb Blau, Mitch Breitwieser, Sidney Bremer, Pamela Caughie, Jay Fliegelman, Frances Foster, Michael Geyer, Todd Gitlin, Kristie Hamilton, Gordon Butner, Cheryl Johnson, Paul Lauter, Hank Lazer, Steven Mailloux, Andy Martin, Ken McCutcheon, Ellen Messer-Davidow, David L. Miller, Cary Nelson, Christopher Newfield, Thomas Piontek, Marjorie Pryse, R. Rhadakrishnan, Valerie Ross, Tom Schaub, David Shumway, Ron Strickland, Bonnie TuSmith, and John Wilson. Work on this book was materially aided by generous support from two department chairs, Jane Nardin and Jim Sappenfield, and two college deans, William Halloran and Marshall Goodman. The Center for Twentieth Century Studies awarded me a fellowship that provided much-needed time for research and writing, and the assistance of a marvelous staff. Kathleen Woodward, director of the Center, once more receives my gratitude not only for her resources but also for her enthusiastic commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship. The Center also sponsored and housed the 1995 National Endowment for the Humanities Institute for secondary school teachers that I directed on the topic "Rethinking American Studies: Connecting the Differences." I am very grateful to the twenty-five participating teachers in the institute who taught me so much, and to the faculty who worked in collaboration with me, especially seminar leaders Joyce Kirk, Rolando Romero, and Mike Wilson. In the course of acknowledging the major support of the NEH, I thank chairman Sheldon Hackney for taking the time to read my work and to direct me to sources that helped my argument along. This is the second time that Bernhard Kendler has shepherded a volume of mine to press. I greatly appreciate his supporting my projects and providing the candid criticism that makes his advice so valuable. My thanks go to all the staff at Cornell, particularly to Terry McKiernan and Lou Robinson, and to my freelance editor, Amanda Heller, who did a terrific job.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

xi

• • • With the exception of the introduction, each chapter of this book builds on and substantially revises a previous essay or article. I am grateful to the publishers for their permission to reprint material from the following: "Knowledge, Power, and the Struggle for Representation." College English 56.1 (1994): 9-29. "Not Born on the Fourth of July: Cultural Differences and American Literary Studies." Approximately 2 2 pages from After Political Correctness: The Humanities and Society in the rggos. Ed. Christopher Newfield and Ron Strickland. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995. 152-73. Copyright 1995 by Westview Press. Reprinted by permission of Westview Press. "Taking Multiculturalism Personally: Ethnos and Ethos in the Classroom." American Literary History 6.4 (1994): 613-32. The original conference paper appears in Pedagogy: The Question of Impersonation. Ed. Jane Gallop. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. 117-28. "The Discipline of the Syllabus." In Reconceptualizing American Literary/Cultural Studies. Ed. William E. Cain. New York: Garland. 1996. 101-16. "The End of 'American' Literature: Toward a Multicultural Practice." College English 53·3 (1991): 264-81. GREGORY S. JAY

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Xll

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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