This book addresses one of the most important theories to arise in recent American literary scholarship. Developed over the past two decades, Sacvan Bercovitch's ideas about the relationship of American cultural institutions to voices of dissent have repeatedly posed challenges to pervasive assumptions about American culture and the methods used by cultural critics and literary historians. The contributors to this book respond to different aspects of Bercovitch's ideas by exploring a wide range of scholarly disciplines, including American, Chicano, Amerindian, African-American, Asian-American, feminist, comparatist, philosophical, legal, and critical studies. In addition to essays that focus on the theoretical backgrounds and implications of Bercovitch's concepts, this book interrogates the uses of those concepts in the study of American literatures. Works by a variety of American writers are analyzed: the Colonial poet Phillis Wheatly; nineteenth-century writers Hawthorne and Melville; modernists Pound and Eliot; contemporary authors John Barth, Norman Mailer, Arturo Islas, and John Yau; and philosophers William James and Stanley Cavell. This book offers new directions to students of American culture, while it participates in the ongoing reassessment of American cultural and literary scholarship.
Carol Colatrella is Assistant Professor in the Department of Literature, Communication, and Culture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Joseph Alkana is Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Miami, Florida.
"The range of topics represented in the book suggests both the power and problems of Bercovitch's formulation. The final section in particular presents the possibilities offered by Bercovitch's idea of consensus and dissent in understanding the current debate over canon issues. Bercovitch's essay itself is a fine and honest accounting of his ideas that opens room for critique. " — Daniel Reagan, St. Anselm College