The American Ideal

The American Ideal : Literary History as a Worldly Activity

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This work argues that American literary scholarship enshrines a reactionary vision of history, of narrative, and of America itself. Carafiol examines the way idealist assumptions have been essential to doing American literary history and unwraps the implications of that symbiosis for current debates about the aims and methods of literary history in general. Carafiol directs his critique not only at traditional approaches to American literature but also at the most influential recent efforts by New Historicists and cultural critics to revise that tradition. Reconsidering the debate between ahistorical and historical models of literary study, he argues that works by such writers like Emerson and Thoreau subvert the claims of critics on both sides. Such writing is important, he proposes, not as timeless art or as social document, but as a voice that can speak powerfully in contemporary conversations, challenging literary critics in all fields to reconsider their critical assumptions and professional practices.
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Product details

  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • New ed.
  • 1423764439
  • 9781423764434

Review quote

"A well-timed and well-directed broadside aimed at those who make a career of Transcendentalist studies--or in American literary scholarship, traditionally conceived--as well as at those newly entrenched in institutional power who think they have found the real meaning of America."--AmericanLiterature"His study is quite stimulating, raising questions about interpretation but without the polemical tone characteristic of many studies in recent decades....The book, written in an engaging style, is a substantial contribution to American literary history, one which will invite both praise and debate. Recommended for public and academic libraries, with special value to students of American literary history."--Choice"This lively, suggestive book is certain to arouse much discussion and debate, and it will have an important impact on the future direction of American literary studies."--William E. Cain, Wellesley College"The American Ideal establishes its author as one of today's most provocative critics of American literary study. Even when I disagree with Peter Carafiol, I admire his splendid writing and learn from his incisive arguments."--Steven Mailloux, University of California, Irvine"[Carafiol's] assessment of diverse approaches to the relationship of literature and history is worth the attention of any practicing twentieth-century scholar, critic, or teacher....his book as a whole is both provocative and constructive."--Comparative Literature Studies
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