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The Origins of American Literature Studies

The Origins of American Literature Studies

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Elizabeth Renker
Cambridge University Press, 18/10/2007
EAN 9780521883450, ISBN10: 0521883458

Hardcover, 232 pages, 22.8 x 15.6 x 2.2 cm

Although American literature is a standard subject in the American college curriculum, a century ago few people thought it should be taught there. Elizabeth Renker uncovers the complex historical process through which American literature overcame its image of aesthetic and historical inferiority to become an important field for academic study and research. Renker's extensive original archival research focuses on four institutions of higher education serving distinct regional, class, race and gender populations. She argues that American literature’s inferior image arose from its affiliation with non-elite schools, teachers and students, and that it had to overcome this social identity in order to achieve status as serious knowledge. Renker’s revisionary analysis is an important contribution to the intellectual history of the United States and will be of interest to anyone studying, teaching or researching American literature.

"What differentiates The Origins of American Literature Studies is its refinement of --and in some cases, challenge to--broad historical narratives, a contribution that stems from Renker's original and democratic approach...as professors of American literature continue to struggle for institutional resources, The Origins of American Literature Studies provides a nuanced and orignial history of such necessary work."
--The Minnesota Review