Still the New World

Still the New World : American Literature in a Culture of Creative Destruction

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Description

In this reinterpretation of American culture, Philip Fisher describes generational life as a series of renewed acts of immigration into a new world. Along with the actual flood of immigrants, technological change brings about an immigration of objects an systems, ways of life and techniques for the distribution of ideas. The text argues against the reduction of literature to identity questions of race, gender, and ethnicity. Ranging from roughly 1850 to 1940, when, Fisher argues, the American cultural and economic system was set in place, the book considers key works in the American canon - from Emerson, Whitman, and Melville, to Twain, James, Howells, Dos Passos, and Nathaniel West, with insights into such artists as Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 151.6 x 233.7 x 21.3mm | 408.24g
  • HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Cambridge, Mass, United States
  • English
  • HARVARD UNIV PR.
  • 5 halftones, 1 line illustration
  • 0674004094
  • 9780674004092
  • 1,944,229

Review quote

Still the New World itself drifts loosely over the American landscape, illuminating major cultural currents and dipping into literary and artistic thickets that make for fascinating...exploration. -- David S. Reynolds New York Times Book Review [A] rich investigation into the American commitment to novelty and innovation...If 'culture,' in the anthropological sense, refers to tradition, enduring ways of life handed down from parents to children over multiple generations, Fisher argues, then 19th- and 20th-century America has had nothing of the kind. Instead of 'culture,' we have a 'culture of creative destruction,' perpetual immigration, novelty, innovation, mobility and children's wise refusal to heed the advice of parents...While much of the book, which is written in an epigrammatic style with a minimum of footnotes, is based on Fisher's close readings of Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Thomas Eakins and other American authors and artists, his surprising and wide-ranging reflections on the principle of 'creative destruction' in commerce and technology deserve a readership well beyond specialists in American literature and art. Publishers Weekly In this provocative look at an ever-changing American society, Fisher considers how the works of great writers reflect the dynamics of cultural change and assimilation. Using examples from such prominent 19th- and 20th-century authors as Twain, Whitman, and Dos Passos, Fisher shows how American writing has been informed by capitalism, economics, democracy, and the unrelenting rise of technology...This is an optimistic book that champions American life and literature. -- Ellen Sullivan Library Journalshow more

About Philip Fisher

Philip Fisher is the Felice Crowl Reid Professor of English and American Literature at Harvard University.show more

Table of contents

Introduction American Abstraction Democratic Social Space Whitman and the Poetics of a Democratic Social Space Defecting from American Abstraction Transparency and Obscurity: Melville's Benito Cereno Hierarchical Social Space: Twain, James, and Howells Regionalism Membership and Identity Episodes of Regionalism Realism Realisms of Detail, State, and Voice Inventing New Frames for Realism Conclusion Notes Acknowledgments Indexshow more