This book is about literary practice in a historical mode. It does not set forth a new theory of American literary nationalism; it does not “locate” race and nation or offer any other all-encompassing explanatory paradigm; it does not argue for unbroken connections between the works and periods that are examined in its four main chapters or “episodes.” The book attempts to complicate our understanding of American literary nationalism by emphasizing the conflicted, multiracial, and contingent dimensions of its various articulations. In addition, it attempts to understand selected works in relation to debates of their contemporary moment in ways that can help to complicate thinking about race and nation in our own moment.
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