Predicting the Past
The Paradoxes of American Literary History
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• A Forensic Approach to American Literary History
• Revisiting the “End” of American Literature
• Outline of the Chapters
The “Pre-History” of American Literat ure: Early Prospects (1850-1910)
• The Future of an Illusion
• Nationalizing the Past
• The Rhetoric of Race
• Teaching and Preaching
• Why Textbooks (Never) Lie
• The Taboo on Provincialism
Live and Let Live: Debati ng Contemporary Literat ure (1890-1930)
• Explaining Antiquarianism
• The Temptations of the Flesh
• Culture and Scholarship
• Explaining Anti-Antiquarianism
• Historians of the Present
• Facts and Factors
The Uses of Language: Literary Polyvocality and Ethnic Continuity (1880-1950)
• Legends about Language in the U.S.
• Dequarantining “American” Languages
• The Continuation of “Anglocentrism continued”
• The Languages of P(l)ur(al)ism
• The Limits of Cosmopolitanism
• America as a “Unipolar” Culture?
Precursors and Exemplars: Genealogies in American Literary History
• The Priority of Jonathan Edwards
• Multiple Awakenings
• The Dickinson Myth
• How Dickinson Became an Intolerable Woman Author
• The (Not So) Personal Voice: The Confessional Poets
• The Matthew Effect
Conclusion: Nothing Realy Ends
Format: Monograph - free ebook - PDF
Publication: November 25, 2021
Michael Boyden is Assistant Professor of American Literature and Culture at the Department of Translation Studies of University College Ghent, Belgium.
In this remarkable book, Boyden argues that American literary history constitutes a literary technology for the construction of a past that answers the needs of the present. Boyden's critical genealogy of the discipline of American literary history promises to become a benchmark text.
Donald E. Pease, Director of the Futures of American Studies Institute, Dartmouth College
The strengths of Boyden's work include first of all a comprehensive knowledge not only of American literature, but also of its primary theorists and historiographers, from the Duyckinck brothers to Saevan Bercovitch, David Shumway, Werner Sollors, and Elizabeth Renker. Boyden adds to this an expert negotiation of vexed matters of literary value, in this case not to privilege the status of value or establish literary hierarchies, but to futther a discussion about how the question ofvalue functions within larger intellectual debates. Part of this negotiation involves an impressive series of micro-historical investigations associated with hotly debated critical issues such as the right way to frame Emily Dickinson or confessional poetry.
Ronald Bush, Oxford University
A brilliant account of how American literature has systematically internalized the conception of utopian alternatives, so that the projected future of the subject is tied inexorably to its past. Predicting the Past is a major theoretical contribution to the internationalization of the field.
Paul Giles, Professor of American Literature, Oxford University
A member of the new generation of international Americanists deeply familiar with America's institutions, myths, and imaginaries, Boyden ably illustrates the productive possibilities of practicing American Studies as a non-American Americanist.
Djelal Kadir, Founding President, International American Studies Association
In this insightful and accessible analysis, Boyden reveals the complex ways U.S. literary historians have constructed narratives of national identity and culture that conceal crucial elements of the story. This is an engaging, groundbreaking study of an influential historical form.
Emory Elliott, General Editor, Columbia Literary History of the United States
Even so, a book that throws light on the long history of ideological self-righteousness that has driven American literature and culture studies is hard not to like.
Peter Carafiol, Portland State University, Modern Language Quarterly, December 2011