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Inter-American Literary History

Six Critical Periods

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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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III. Colonial Literature in the Americas

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← 78 | 79 →

III.   Colonial Literature in the Americas

With the exception of Native American literature and culture (which I have treated elsewhere; see Fitz 1991, 1–23; 2012; 2013; 2016, 15–27; and “Amerindian Narratives,” forthcoming 2016; see also Toonder, et al., forthcoming 2016), no period, or experience, is more foundational to inter-American literature than the colonial period is. Questions of political status and economic rights were at the forefront of discussions, along with, in the cases of literarily rich Spanish America and Brazil, the early practice of creative writing, art, and music, all done under the star of the Baroque. In all our American colonial societies, however, the efforts of European monarchies “to impose taxation without significant political representation produced revolts among the colonists” (Eakin 26). This point is echoed by Henríquez-Ureña, who, making particular reference to early Spanish America, notes that the real conflict was between the European born leaders and those born here in the New World, whether criollos or mestizos34 (58).

The situation in Brazil is different in that there (and in addition to the Brazilian counterparts to the Spanish American criollos and mestizos), the mamelucos, or those men and women who derive from a Native American and white heritage, also came to wield a great deal of power, especially in the eighteenth century and the Bandeirantes. From the beginning, Brazil was much more a mestiço culture, one mixed not just biologically but linguistically, intellectually, and artistically,...

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