America is a nation making itself up as it goes along - a story of discovery and invention unfolding in speeches and images, letters and poetry, unprecedented feats of scholarship and imagination. In these myriad, multiform, endlessly changing expressions of the American experience, the authors and editors of this volume find a new American history. In more than two hundred original essays, "A New Literary History of America" brings together the nation's many voices. From the first conception of a New World in the sixteenth century to the latest re-envisioning of that world in cartoons, television, science fiction, and hip hop, the book gives us a new, kaleidoscopic view of what "Made in America" means. Literature, music, film, art, history, science, philosophy, political rhetoric - cultural creations of every kind appear in relation to each other, and to the time and place that give them shape. The meeting of minds is extraordinary as T.J.
Clark writes on Jackson Pollock, Paul Muldoon on Carl Sandburg, Camille Paglia on Tennessee Williams, Sarah Vowell on Grant Wood's American Gothic, Walter Mosley on hard-boiled detective fiction, Jonathan Lethem on Thomas Edison, Gerald Early on Tarzan, Bharati Mukherjee on The Scarlet Letter, Gish Jen on Catcher in the Rye, and Ishmael Reed on Huckleberry Finn. From Anne Bradstreet and John Winthrop to Philip Roth and Toni Morrison, from Alexander Graham Bell and Stephen Foster to Alcoholics Anonymous, Life, Chuck Berry, Alfred Hitchcock, and Ronald Reagan, this is America singing, celebrating itself, and becoming something altogether different, plural, singular, and new.
Greil Marcus is the author of The Doors, Mystery Train, and other books. Werner Sollors is Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.
* Introduction [Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors] *1507: The name "America" appears on a map [Toby Lester] *1521, August 13: Mexico in America [Kirsten Silva Gruesz] *1536, July 24: Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca [Ilan Stavans] *1585: "Counterfeited according to the truth" [Michael Gaudio] *1607: Fear and love in the Virginia colony [Adam Goodheart] *1630: A city upon a hill [Elizabeth Winthrop] *1643: A nearer neighbor to the Indians [Ted Widmer] *1666, July 10: Anne Bradstreet [Wai Chee Dimock] *1670: The American jeremiad [Emory Elliott] *1670: The stamp of God's image [Jason D. LaFountain] *1673: The Jesuit relations [Laurent Dubois] *1683: Francis Daniel Pastorius [Alfred L. Brophy] *1692: The Salem witchcraft trials [Susan Castillo] *1693--1694, March 4: Edward Taylor [Werner Sollors] *1700: Samuel Sewall, The Selling of Joseph [David Blight] *1722: Benjamin Franklin, The Silence Dogood Letters [Joyce E. Chaplin] *1740: The Great Awakening [Joanne van der Woude] * Late 1740s; 1814, September 13--14: Two national anthems [John Picker] *1765, December 23: Michel-Guillaume Jean de Crevecoeur [Leo Damrosch] *1773, September: Phillis Wheatley [Rafia Zafar] *1776: The Declaration of Independence [Frank Kelleter] *1784, June: Charles Willson Peale [Michael Leja] *1787: James Madison, Notes of the Debates in the Federal Convention [Mitchell Meltzer] *1787--1790: John Adams, Discourses on Davila [John Diggins] *1791: Philip Freneau and The National Gazette [Jeffrey L. Pasley] *1796: Washington's farewell address [Francois Furstenberg] *1798: Mary Rowlandson and the Alien and Sedition Acts [Nancy Armstrong] *1798: American gothic [Marc Amfreville] *1801, March 4: Jefferson's first inaugural address [Jan Ellen Lewis] *1804, January: The matter of Haiti [Kaiama Glover] *1809: Cupola of the world [Judith Richardson] *1819, February: The Missouri crisis [John Stauffer] *1820, November 27: Landscape with birds [Christoph Irmscher] *1821: Sequoyah, the Cherokee syllabary [Lisa Brooks] *1821, June 30: Junius Brutus Booth [Coppelia Kahn] *1822: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, the Ojibwe firefly, and Longfellow's Hiawatha [David Treuer] *1825, November: Thomas Cole and the Hudson River school [Alan Wallach] *1826, July 4: Songs of the republic [Steve Erickson] *1826: Cooper's Leatherstocking tales [Richard Hutson] *1826; 1927: Transnational poetry [Stephen Burt] *1827: Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon [Terryl L. Givens] *1828: David Walker, Appeal, in Four Articles [Tommie Shelby] *1830, May 21: Jump Jim Crow [W.T. Lhamon, Jr.] *1831, March 5: The Cherokee Nation decision [Philip Deloria] *1832, July 10: President Jackson's bank veto [Dan Feller] *1835, January: Democracy in America [Ted Widmer] *1835: William Gilmore Simms, The Yemassee [Jeffrey Johnson] *1835: The Sacred Harp [Sean Wilentz] *1836, February 23--March 6: The Alamo and Texas border writing [Norma E. Cantu] *1836, February 28: Richard Henry Dana, Jr. [Kirsten Silva Gruesz] *1837, August 15: Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The American Scholar" [James Conant] *1838, July 15: "The Divinity School Address" [Herwig Friedl] *1838, September 3: The slave narrative [Caille Millner] *1841: "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" [Robert Clark] *1846, June: James Russell Lowell's Biglow Papers [Shelley Streeby] *1846, late July: Henry David Thoreau [Jonathan Arac] *1850: The Scarlet Letter [Bharati Mukherjee] *1850, July 19: Margaret Fuller and the Transcendentalist Movement [Lawrence Buell] *1850, August 5: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville [Clark Blaise] *1851: Moby-Dick [Greil Marcus] *1851: Uncle Tom's Cabin [Beverly Lowry] *1852: Hawthorne's Blithedale Romance and utopian communities [Winfried Fluck] *1852, July 5: Frederick Douglass, "What to the slave is the Fourth of July?" [Liam Kennedy] *1854: Maria Cummins and sentimental fiction [Cindy Weinstein] *1855: Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass [Angus Fletcher] *1858: The Lincoln--Douglas debates [Michael T. Gilmore] *1859: The science of the Indian [Scott Richard Lyons] *1861: Emily Dickinson [Susan Stewart] *1862, December 13: The journeys of Little Women [Shirley Samuels] *1865, March 4: Lincoln's second inaugural address [Ted Widmer] *1865: "Conditions of repose" [Robin Kelsey] *1869, March 4: Carl Schurz [Michael Boyden] *1872, November 5: All men and women are created equal [Laura Wexler] *1875: The Winchester Rifle [Merritt Roe Smith] *1876, January 6: Melville in the dark [Kenneth W. Warren] *1876, March 10: The art of telephony [Avital Ronell] *1878: "How to Make Our Ideas Clear" [Christopher Hookway] *1879: John Muir and nature writing [Scott Slovic] *1881, January 24: Henry James, Portrait of a Lady [Alide Cagidemetrio] *1884: Mark Twain's hairball [Ishmael Reed] *1884, July: The Linotype machine [Lisa Gitelman] *1884, November: The Southwest imagined [Leah Dilworth] *1885: The problem of error [James Conant] *1885, July: Limits to violence [James Dawes] *1885, October: Writing New Orleans [Andrei Codrescu] *1888: The introduction of motion pictures [Jonathan Lethem] *1889, August 28: A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court [Yael Schacher] *1893: Chief Simon Pokagon and Native American literature [David Treuer] *1895: Ida B. Wells, A Red Record [Jacqueline Goldsby] *1896: Paul Laurence Dunbar, Lyrics of Lowly Life [Judith Jackson Fossett] *1896, September 6: Queen Lili'uokalani [Rob Wilson] *1897, Memorial Day: The Robert Gould Shaw and 54th Regiment Monument [Richard Powers] *1898, June 22: Literature and imperialism [Amy Kaplan] *1899; 1924: McTeague and Greed [Gilberto Perez] *1900: Henry Adams [T.J. Jackson Lears] *1900: The Wizard of Oz [Gerald Early] *1900; 1905: Sister Carrie and The House of Mirth [Farah Jasmine Griffin] *1901: Charles W. Chesnutt, The Marrow of Tradition [John Edgar Wideman] *1901; 1903: The problem of the color line [Arnold Rampersad] *1903, May 5: "The real American has not yet arrived" [Aviva Taubenfeld] *1903: The invention of the blues [Luc Sante] *1903: One sees what one sees [Daniel Albright] *1904, August 30: Henry James in America [Ross Posnock] *1905, October 15: Little Nemo in Slumberland [Kerry Roeder] *1906, April 9: The Azusa Street revival [RJ Smith] *1906, April 18, 5:14 a.m.: The San Francisco Earthquake [Kathleen Moran] *1911: "Alexander's Ragtime Band" [Philip Furia] *1912, April 15: Lifeboats cut adrift [Alan Ackerman] *1912: The lure of impossible things [Heather Love] *1912: Tarzan begins his reign [Gerald Early] *1913: A modernist moment [Bonnie Costello] *1915: D.W. Griffith, The Birth of a Nation [Richard Schickel] *1915: Robert Frost [Christian Wiman] *1917: The philosopher and the millionaire [Richard J. Bernstein] *1920, August 10: Mamie Smith's "Crazy Blues" [Daphne A. Brooks] *1921: Jean Toomer [Elizabeth Alexander] *1922: T.S. Eliot and D.H. Lawrence [Anita Patterson] *1923, October: Chaplinesque [David Thomson] *1924: F.O. Matthiessen meets Russell Cheney [Robert Polito] *1924, May 26: The Johnson--Reed Act and ethnic literature [Yael Schacher] *1925: The Great Gatsby [Lan Tran] *1925, June: Sinclair Lewis [Jeffrey Ferguson] *1925, July: The Scopes trial [Michael Kazin] *1925, August 16: Dorothy Parker [Catherine Keyser] *1926: Fire!! [Carla Kaplan] *1926: Hardboiled [Walter Mosley] *1926: The Book-of-the-Month Club [Joan Shelley Rubin] *1927: Carl Sandburg and The American Songbag [Paul Muldoon] *1927, May 16: "Free to develop their faculties" [Jeffrey Rosen] *1928, April 8, Easter Sunday: Dilsey Gibson goes to church [Werner Sollors] *1928, Summer: John Dos Passos [Phoebe Kosman] *1928, November 18: The mouse that whistled [Karal Ann Marling] *1930: "You're swell!" [Robert Gottlieb] *1930, March: The Silent Enemy [Micah Treuer] *1930, October: Grant Wood's American Gothic [Sarah Vowell] *1931, March 19: Nevada legalizes gambling [David Thomson] *1932: Edmund Wilson, The American Jitters [Anthony Grafton] *1932: Arthur Miller [Andrea Most] *1932, April or May: The River Rouge plant and industrial beauty [John M. Staudenmaier, S.J.] *1932, Christmas: Ned Cobb [Robert Cantwell] *1933: Baby Face is censored [Stephanie Zacharek] *1933, March: FDR's first Fireside Chat [Paula Rabinowitz] *1934, September: Robert Penn Warren [Howell Raines] *1935: The Popular Front [Angela Miller] *1935: The skyscraper [Sarah Whiting] *1935, June 10: Alcoholics Anonymous [Michael Tolkin] *1935, October 10: Porgy and Bess [John Rockwell] *1936: Gone with the Wind and Absalom, Absalom! [Carolyn Porter] *1936, July 5: Two days in Harlem [Adam Bradley] *1936, November 23: Life begins [Michael Lesy] *1938: Superman [Douglas Wolk] *1938, May: Jelly Roll Morton speaks [Marybeth Hamilton] *1939: Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit" Robert O'Meally *1939; 1981: Up from invisibility [Josef Jarab] *1940: "No way like the American way" [Erika Doss] *1940--1944: Preston Sturges [Douglas McGrath] *1941: An insolent style [Carrie Tirado Bramen] *1941: Citizen Kane [Joseph McBride] *1941: The word "multicultural" [Werner Sollors] *1943: Hemingway's paradise, Hemingway's prose [Keith Taylor] *1944: The second Bill of Rights [Cass R. Sunstein] *1945, February: Bebop [Ingrid Monson] *1945, April 11: Thomas Pynchon and modern war [Glenda Carpio] *1945, August 6, 10:45 a.m.: The atom bomb [Sharon Ghamari-Tabrizi] *1946, December 5: Integrating the military [Gerald Early] *1947, December 3: Tennessee Williams [Camille Paglia] *1948: Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics [David A. Mindell] *1948: Saul Bellow [Ruth Wisse] *1949--1950: "The Birth of the Cool" [Ted Gioia] *1950, November 28: "Damned busy painting" [T.J. Clark] *1951: A poet among painters [Mark Ford] *1951: The Catcher in the Rye [Gish Jen] *1951: James Jones, From Here to Eternity [Lindsay Waters] *1951: A soft voice [M. Lynn Weiss] *1952, April 12: Elia Kazan and the blacklist in Hollywood [Michael Ventura] *1952, June 10: C.L.R. James [Donald E. Pease] *1953, January 1: The song in country music [Dave Hickey] *1954: Wallace Stevens, Collected Poems [Helen Vendler] *1955, August 11: "The self-respect of my people" [Monica L. Miller] *1955, September 21: A.J. Liebling and the Marciano--Moore fight [Carlo Rotella] *1955, October 7: A generation in miniature [Richard Candida Smith] *1955, December: Nabokov's Lolita [Stephen Schiff] *1956, April 16: "Roll Over Beethoven" [James Miller] *1957: Dr. Seuss [Philip Nel] *1959: "Nobody's perfect" [William J. Mann] *1960: Psycho [William Beard] *1960, January: More than a game [Michael MacCambridge] *1961, January 20: JFK's inaugural address and Catch-22 [Charles Taylor] *1961, July 2: The author as advertisement [David Thomson] *1962: Bob Dylan writes "Song to Woody" [Joshua Clover] *1962: "White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art" [Howard Hampton] *1963, April: "Letter from Birmingham Jail" [George Hutchinson] *1964: Robert Lowell, "For the Union Dead" [Peter Sacks] *1964, October 27: "The last stand on Earth" [Gary Kamiya] *1965, September 11: The Council on Interracial Books for Children [Dianne Johnson] *1965, October: The Autobiography of Malcolm X [David Bradley] *1968: Norman Mailer [Mary Gaitskill] *1968, March: The illusory babels of language [Hal Foster] *1968, August 28: The plight of conservative literature [Michael Kimmage] *1969: Elizabeth Bishop, Complete Poems [Laura Quinney] *1969, January 11: The first Asian Americans [Hua Hsu] *1969, November 12: The eye of Vietnam [Thi Phuong-Lan Bui] *1970: Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker [Cheryl A. Wall] *1970; 1972: Linda Lovelace [Ann Marlowe] *1973: Loisaida literature [Frances R. Aparicio] *1973: Adrienne Rich, Diving into the Wreck [Maureen N. McLane] *1975: Gayl Jones [Robert O'Meally] *1981, March 31: Toni Morrison [Farah Jasmine Griffin] *1982: Edmund White, A Boy's Own Story [Sarah Shun-lien Bynum] *1982: Wild Style [Hua Hsu] *1982: Maya Lin's wall [Anne M. Wagner] *1982, November 8: Harriet Wilson [Saidiya V. Hartman] *1985, April 24: Henry Roth [Mario Materassi] *1987: Maxine Hong Kingston, Tripmaster Monkey [Seo-Young Chu] *1995: Philip Roth [Hana Wirth-Nesher] *2001: Twenty-first-century free verse [Stephen Burt] *2003: Richard Powers, The Time of Our Singing [Greil Marcus] *2005, August 29: Hurricane Katrina [Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors] *2008, November 4: Barack Obama [Kara Walker] * Contributors * Index
In snapshots of a few thousand words each, the entries in A New Literary History put on display the exploring, tinkering and risk-taking that have contributed to the invention of America...A New Literary History of America gives us what amounts to a fractal geometry of American culture. You can focus on any one spot and get a sense of the whole or pull back and watch the larger patterns appear. What you see isn't the past so much as the present. -- Wes Davis Wall Street Journal 20090926 A New Literary History of America is not your typical Harvard University Press anthology...[It] roams far beyond any standard definition of literature. Aside from compositions that contain the written word, its subjects include war memorials, jazz, museums, comic strips, film, radio, musicals, skyscrapers, cybernetics and photography. -- Patricia Cohen New York Times 20090922 This magnificent volume is a vast, inquisitive, richly surprising and consistently enlightening wallow in our national history and culture...Neither reference nor criticism, neither history nor treatise, but a genre-defying, transcendent fusion of them all. It sounds impossible, but the result seems both inevitable and necessary and profoundly welcome, too...This book is not so much a history of our literature as it is a literary version of our history, told through the culture we've created to recount our past and conjure our future...In the age of Wikipedia, a reference book like this needs more than just the facts; it needs to tell us what the facts mean, and A New Literary History does just that. -- Laura Miller Salon 20090922 Ambitious, thought-provoking, and comprehensive, A New Literary History of America edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, features more than 200 essays on poems, letters, novels, memoirs, speeches, movies, and theater, by writers ranging from Bharati Mukherjee to John Edgar Wideman, reinterpreting the American experience form the 1500s forward. Elle 20091001 The huge, welcoming, exciting, just-published volume A New Literary History of America is a book with which to spend entire days and the rest of your life...Where else are you going to read Camille Paglia on Tennessee Williams, Mary Gaitskill on Norman Mailer, and Walter Mosley on the hardboiled detective novel? Don't you want to do that right now?...Talk about an all-American value: You could read this 1,000-plus-page book forever and never use up its revelations and its pleasures. -- Ken Tucker Entertainment Weekly online 20090923 [This] represents a rethinking of the awkward genre of literary history, which can fall disappointingly between the cracks of straight criticism and narrative history, devolving into a dull recitation of author bios and conventional literary wisdom. With the help of an editorial board, Marcus and Sollors settled on 216 artworks (film and painting as well as texts), authors, movements, and cultural artifacts that help answer the question, "What is America?" Emerson, Melville, Dickinson, and Faulkner are in there, to be sure, but so are the Winchester rifle, "Steamboat Willie," Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven," Alcoholics Anonymous, and Linda Lovelace (the star of the pornographic film "Deep Throat," who later said she'd been raped during its filming)...It will be a welcome change if a "literary history," for once, stirs up a little dust. -- Christopher Shea Boston Globe Brainiac blog 20090826 [An] essential, eclectic doorstop anthology. New York Magazine 20090913 The full national-literary character of the United States is on display in this mighty history and reference work for our time. Written by a distinguished team, under the sure-handed editorship of musicologist and historian Marcus and Sollors...this volume begins with America's first appearance on a map and concludes with the election of President Obama. Among the more than 200 contributors are Bharati Mukherjee (on The Scarlet Letter), Camille Paglia (on Tennessee Williams) and Ishmael Reed (on The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn)...This is an astounding achievement in multiculturalism and American studies, which in the age of Google and the Internet lights the way toward serious interpretive reference publishing. (Starred Review) Publishers Weekly Of course it's hefty; it's a "broadly cultural history" of America with a literary bent, an avid and provocative collaboration that tracks the American story not only through works of American literature, classic and forgotten, but also via music, art, pop culture, speeches, letters, religious tracts, photographs, and Supreme Court decisions. Versatile social critic and historian Marcus, Harvard University professor of English and African American studies Sollors, and their illustrious board of editors assembled more than 200 commissioned essays, which meander chronologically from 1507 and the first appearance on a map of the name "America" to Barack Obama's election. In between is a dazzling array of inquiries into Gone with the Wind and Invisible Man, The Wizard of Oz and the blues, hard-boiled detective stories and Mickey Mouse, "Howl" and Miles Davis, nature writing and Zora Neale Hurston. With such contributors as Elizabeth Alexander, Mary Gaitskill, Bharati Mukherjee, Richard Powers, Ishmael Reed, David Thomson, David Treuer, and John Edgar Wideman, this is an adventurous, jazzily choral, and kaleidoscopic book of interpretations, illuminations, and revitalized history. -- Donna Seaman Booklist 20090901 Marcus and Sollors trace through literature the dynamism of American society and culture spanning 500 years, from the first time the name America appears on a map (1507) to the election of Barack Obama as president...No single volume can fully capture the range of a nation's literary history, but this book succeeds in highlighting new ideas and providing a starting point for further investigation. Above all, it is a pleasure to read. -- Mark Alan Williams Library Journal 20090815 Reading this gorgeous compendium on the written word in America should be required for gaining or maintaining U.S. citizenship. And even at more than 1,000 pages, it's a fun way to learn what we're all about...The list of contributors is a rich, varied array of our best contemporary writers and cultural mavens...The editors were aiming for "a reexamination of the American experience as seen through a literary glass." Marcus and Sollors have succeeded: This book is a literary history in every sense of the phrase. -- Ron Antonucci Cleveland Plain Dealer 20090928 Hundreds of essayists write short, but think expansively on just about everything that makes us who we are--from Elvis to Obama. Entertainment Weekly 20091009 It's natural to have high expectations of a book with the lofty title A New Literary History of America. What isn't natural is for the book to not just live up to, but far exceed those expectations...Edgar Allen Poe's invention of the detective story hobnobs with the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Hank Williams' country music is only a few pages from Zora Neale Hurston. It's as glorious a melting pot as America itself...If you've found yourself envying Britain her Shakespeare, Dickens, and Austen, this book will bring you back to America and make you fall in love with her confidence, her innovation, her sheer pluck, all over again... A treasure for American history AND literature lovers. -- Michelle Kerns Boston Examiner 20090925 You could get a hernia lifting A New Literary History of America, a 1,095-page tome edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors. But you could also get a thorough, original, and occasionally startling education. Some 200 essays on our literary past by writers as disparate as critic/provocateur Camille Paglia (on the sexually electric Broadway opening of A Streetcar Named Desire) and sportswriter Michael MacCambridge (on football fiction) make for a book as richly varied as the nation itself. Fortune 20091012 The book is not your usual bookish chronicle made up of fearless men churning out classics for the edification of the nation...[It's an] eclectic, opinionated vision of the story of American letters. -- Bill Marx Arts Fuse 20091007 A wildly informative, hugely entertaining and sometimes even revelatory book. -- Jeff Simon Buffalo News 20090927 Tailor-made for fruitful and fun browsing...This is a reference book for anyone with a curiosity about the sweep and scope of not just American literature but the culture itself in art, film, sermon and song. -- Robert Pincus San Diego Union-Tribune 20090927 The feel of the whole is epic...By the time I had made my way through about a third of this book I began to feel an emotion that comes but rarely to a reviewer: pride. Not pride in America's politics or policies necessarily, but pride in our speech...In my opinion perhaps the single most impressive achievement in the book is the editors' and writers' ability to pinpoint linkages between one kind of fact and another...All the major writers, whether in poetry or prose, draw thoughtful essays. -- Larry McMurtry New York Review of Books 20091105 The editors of this rich exercise in cultural history have taken up Pound's challenge [to "make it new"], producing an eloquent patchwork volume that gathers up more than 200 essays, chronologically arranged by subject, into a beguiling symphony that expresses the bewildering, often intimidating varieties of what we presume to call the American experience...This splendiferous tribute to the best that so many of us have thought and said and made embraces classic and watershed literary works and their authors, political acts and events and issues, statements of purpose and conscience, achievements in both the fine arts (music, painting, sculpture, et al) and the raucous venues of popular culture (yes, Virginia, we do get a crash course in the autobiographical writings of 1970s porn queen Linda Lovelace), and major figures ranging from the makers of the Constitution of the United States to contemporary film and television personalities and the giants and giantesses of pop, jazz and rock music...Defiantly unconventional...Surely one of the best books published in this country in a very long time. -- Bruce Allen Washington Times 20091018 The mammoth New Literary History of America [is] an extraordinary anthology of literary culture brought to you by a seat-of-the-pants polyglot of a country. -- Chris Vognar Dallas Morning News 20091115 This new-breed reference book--featuring freshly penned and eccentrically focused essays by a heterogeneous who's who of academics, journalists and authors--ventures to remap the expanse of American history through five centuries of literary and cultural landmarks...Although it shares with its history-book forebears unimpeachable intellect and seriousness of intent, this is not the Oxford Companion to American Literature. For one thing, it's a lot more fun. -- John McAlley npr.org 20091124 This hefty yet invigorating anthology of 225 new essays about American culture and history is perfect for the hard-to-please smarty-pants. Time Out New York 20091118 A New Literary History of America is about what's Made in America, and America, made. It's about what the writers who are its subjects have made of America, and, equally, what the contributors, writing about these writers, make of America, too. There's a certain amount of trading on literary celebrity, to be sure. But the claims on our attention, and it is a serious claim, lies within the republic of these writers' imaginations. -- Jill Lepore Times Literary Supplement 20091127 In the monumental, absorbing A New Literary History of America, editors Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors have assembled a fascinating collection of writings on a range of subject matters: everything from maps, diaries and Supreme Court decisions to religious tracts, public debates, comic strips and rock and roll...In 1,000-odd pages, Marcus and Sollors have compiled a remarkable history of America. Their expanded definition of literary encompasses "not only what is written but also what is voiced, what is expressed, what is invented, in whatever form." Most of all, A New Literary History of America is a reminder of just how vibrant and diverse United States history--and culture--really is. -- Lacey Galbraith BookPage 20091203 This brick of a book is a browser's delight. Ranging over many high points and exploring interesting crannies of the American experience from 1507 to 2008, A New Literary History offers those interested in culture, history, and politics much to savor and more than a little with which to match wits. Among those entries bringing fresh insight to seemingly exhausted subjects are Ted Widmer on Roger Williams and Abraham Lincoln, Greil Marcus on Moby-Dick, Anita Patterson on T.S. Eliot and D.H. Lawrence, Camille Paglia on Tennessee Williams, and Charles Taylor juxtaposing with great verve JFK's inaugural with Catch-22. There are virtuoso explanations: Anthony Grafton on Edmund Wilson's The American Earthquake, Dave Hickey on Hank Williams's transformation of the American song in country music, and Monica Miller on the transcendental meaning of Zora Neale Thurston's denunciation of Brown v. The Board of Education. Mary Gaitskill on Norman Mailer is a stylistic tour de force...This ambitious anthology succeeds beyond reasonable expectations in satisfying what Lionel Trilling...said was "the moral obligation to be intelligent." -- Peter Kadzis Boston Phoenix 20091208 [The editors] tell an equally fascinating and moving history of the country, as we have never heard it before--and a story like which, say the editors, would not be possible in any other country...Instead of blending into the background of different shades of gray of a historical order, each of the events here radiates with seemingly contemporary luminosity. -- Jorg Hantzschel Suddeutsche Zeitung A DIY college course unto itself. -- Anneli Rufus East Bay Express 20091125 An impressive achievement. -- Jim Kiest San Antonio Express-News 20091213 [An] original new history of literature...A New Literary History of America recounts the history of the mind of a continent, and each single subject is approached with stylistic verve and thus knighted as literature by its authors, many of whom are themselves writers...Even though an idiosyncratic sprint across half a millennium of cultural history cannot avoid certain abbreviations, this amusing-to-read anthology teaches us that what appears to get more and more lost in this age of Wikipedia: well-researched, reflective, subjective and stylistically brilliant approaches that transform facts and figures into knowledge that can be passed on. -- Andrea Kohler Neue Zurcher Zeitung 20091110 This may be called a literary history but it is more broadly a cultural history, a history of language in its many forms--novels, essays, plays, public speeches and private letters, sermons and on and on...The choices made by the editors are smart, and the writers of the essays engage ideas with great passion. -- Elizabeth Taylor Chicago Tribune 20091222 [This] may be the most unique attempt yet to tell the story of the United States...It's a feast for anyone who cares about history and national identity, not to mention a showcase for virtuoso writing. avclub.com 20091130 Brings together a series of disconnected, personal (and often very opinionated) essays that not only offer new angles on the big names of U.S. literature but also consider Alcoholics Anonymous, the Book-of-the-Month Club, Citizen Kane, Dr. Seuss, skyscrapers, and Superman. -- Matthew Reisz Times Higher Education 20091231 It's hard to imagine anyone right up to full professor failing to get excitement from this charged grid of event and interpretation...Hats off, though, to the editors above all, for constructing a volume where each element reinforces every other, often by contradicting it, so that the whole vast book is more exciting than even its most impressive part. -- Adam Mars-Jones The Observer 20100131 Who would want to go into this particular new year, with all its uncertainties, without a copy of A New Literary History of America? Many hands delight and inform, and "literary history" is time stuffed full of "cultural creations" like this perfect bedside book. The selections are short, written with both precision and passion, and not infrequently deliver insights. -- Tom D'Evelyn Providence Journal 20091220 One way to reinvigorate our opinions about the nation's literary life is to encounter new ways to think about it. A New Literary History of America edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors does just that with a wide-ranging collection of essays. -- Bob Hoover Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 20091228 It's weirdly inclusive (Is the Winchester Rifle really part of literary history?), but the big book has so many lively entries, on everything from hard-boiled fiction to New Journalism, that you can overlook its faults and enjoy its sweep. -- Robert L. Pincus San Diego Union-Tribune 20091227 Never fails to engross and edify. -- Rodney Clapp Christian Century 20100112 A New Literary History of America...avoids the temptation to rein in its subject too neatly or ease the strangeness out of American history. Not only does it stretch, appropriately, to America's earliest pre-history--the first essay, by Toby Lester, examines the first appearance of "America" on a map--this enormous anthology stretches the definition of literary...A New Literary History of America challenges not only its own structure, but also our traditional view of history's structure in order to emphasize the transmission, conscious or collectively unconscious, of ideas...But the pleasure of the volume, of course, is the massive collection of voices it brings together, subjects and authors both. -- Robert Loss popmatters.com 20100203 A collection of great minds writing on other great minds, art and literature, social movements, feats of scholarship and everything in between. San Francisco Chronicle 20100314 This book came out only last year and has already proved itself indispensable. If I'm writing about anything that has to do with American literature, I look it up here first. The format is a little unwieldy--the book is organized chronologically around idiosyncratically chosen dates--but its capsule essays build into a surprising, inventive narrative of American culture: Ishamel Reed on "Mark Twain's hairball", Luc Sante on the blues, David Thomson on Chaplin, Ruth Wisse on Saul Bellow, Gish Jen on Catcher in the Rye, Mary Gaitskill on Norman Mailer...I could quibble with the omissions, or I could just shut up and be grateful that this book exists in any form. -- Ruth Franklin National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors blog 20101126 In the monumental, absorbing A New Literary History of America, editors Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors have assembled a fascinating collection of writings on a range of subject matters: everything from maps, diaries and Supreme Court decisions to religious tracts, public debates, comic strips and rock and roll...In 1,000-odd pages, Marcus and Sollors have compiled a remarkable history of America...Most of all, A New Literary History of America is a reminder of just how vibrant and diverse United States history--and culture--really is. -- Lacey Galbraith Book Page 20110401
NEW LITERARY HIST OF AMER
Harvard University Press Reference Library
The Belknap Press
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Greil Marcus, Werner Sollors