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Inter-American Literary History

Six Critical Periods


Earl E. Fitz

Inter-American literary study is an exciting and fast-growing area of comparative scholarship. The Americas are tied together by a common historical heritage and by a history of social, political, economic, and cultural interaction.

As a contribution to this field, this book brings together the literatures and literary histories of English and French Canada, the United States, Spanish America, the Caribbean, and Brazil. The periods focused on include the Colonial Period, the Nineteenth Century, Modernism and Modernity, the 1960s, and the Contemporary Moment. The author contrasts the different European heritages that were brought to the New World. In addition, the literature and culture of Native America is referred to in each of these sections that will be of use to the reader interested in this important topic, which we can rightly think of as the common denominator of all American literature.

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II. The European Background


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II.   The European Background

In order to understand fully how our several American colonies grew and developed, one must first understand the European cultures that gave rise to them. While, in their own ways, all our European forays into the New World were exercises in financial gain, there were great differences between them. Spain, for instance, was also inspired by religious zeal, and by what was from their perspective in 1492 a sincere desire to Christianize the world. Religious concerns are, of course, the driving force behind the arrival of the English Puritans, though thoughts of commercial success were not far behind. The Portuguese, arriving in 1500, were already operating a global economic empire and, whatever religious motivations they might have also had, were primarily interested in their New World colony, Brazil, for economic and strategic reasons. The French and the Dutch would fall in somewhere in between these poles. In the cases of Spain and Portugal, moreover, a rich and complex literary heritage, the Iberian Baroque, arrived with them, and creative writing in early Spanish America and Brazil would be immediately marked by this brilliant literary tradition, which they both shared and to which their respective writers had contributed. For the inter-Americanist interested in comparative American colonial studies, however, the opening question is thus: Which were the European heritages that, between the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century, were implanted in the Americas, and how did they...

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