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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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V. Our Multiple American Modernisms


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V.   Our Multiple American Modernisms

In art, literature, political thought, and philosophy, modernity comes to the Americas with a backdrop of increasing hemispheric inter-action but also of increasing social, political, and economic injustice and the resulting animosity. And, throughout the Americas, there was also a tension between a new desire for expressions of authentic national identity and relations between our various American nations and changing forms of cultural expressions in their European mother countries. This clash, between nationalism and what we might term a newly emergent desire for internationalism, for making our long isolated and culturally marginalized American nations players on the global stage, is common to Modernism throughout the New World (see Fitz, Rediscovering, 121–145). Difficult to define with any degree of specificity and differing always from culture to culture, Modernism nevertheless constitutes one of the most fecund, and inter-connected, periods in inter-American literature. Many of the connections begun earlier in the nineteenth century come now to fruition. A U.S. writer, Edgar Allan Poe, was influential on the early Spanish American Modernistas, both in terms of his euphonic verse and his literary criticism, though he was less important to the later, and very different, Brazilian Modernismo and to Canadian Modernism, which hits its stride a bit later, in the 1930s. Darío, the central figure of Spanish American Modernismo, devoted an entire chapter to Poe in his book, Los raros (1893), that celebrated the U.S. poet’s genius in using imagination, mystery, and...

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