CONTENTS

Home/Introduction

I. Genealogy of American Studies

II. Myth and Symbol

III. Interpretive Social Science Theory

IV. Marxisms

V. Poststructuralist & Postmodern Theories

VI. Gender, Race, Sexuality & Dis/ability

VII. Historical Theories & Methods

VIII. Literary Theories & Methods

IX. (British) Cultural Studies

X. Postcolonial & Transnational Theories

XI. Theorizing Interdisciplinarity (forthcoming)

Comments? Corrections? Suggestions?

LAST REVISED
1/22/2000


INTRODUCTION:

This bibliography offers an historical survey of and an introduction to work on theory and method in American Studies. My aim is to give American Studies students and scholars both a sense of trends over time and a tool kit for work in the present. My principle of selection has been to restrict myself to work which, whatever its discipline of origin, has proven itself useful in interdisciplinary studies; hence, I have not listed works whose impact seems to me to have been wholly contained within a single, traditional field of scholarship. Given the breadth of the topic, no fully comprehensive list is possible but I have tried to be broadly representative of a variety of approaches, selecting the most lucid treatments of the highlighted theories and methods.

Each section begins with an introduction, and, taken in series, these offer an informal narrative of developments in American Studies theory and method over the years. This is meant to be suggestive rather than definitive, and I assume that other versions of this story could be told (indeed I cite some sources in my first section that tell the history differently). While following something of a chronological development, I do not intend to imply that new theories are always superior to old ones, but rather aim to suggest that certain theoretical and methodological paradigms (always contested) have been prominent if not dominant in the field at particular historical moments. Items within the sections are arranged chrono-topically rather than alphabetically, such that they too form part of a narrative about historical trends in theory and method. My aim is to embody my belief in the need to historicize theorizing, the need for latecomers to understand the development of theory in relationship to earlier moments. While some of these changes may have taken place in a semi-autonomous realm of Theory, most, I would contend, have been driven by currents of social movement activity.

My categories are necessarily partly arbitrary and over-lapping, since not all works fall neatly into a "school" (especially in an inherently interdisciplinary field), but I believe the categories I have created are heuristically useful in sorting out major approaches. Many individual works could have been listed in more than one category (a fact I have dealt with when important through cross-referencing). Recognizing the Continental origin and focus of much recent theory and noting that the necessarily abstract quality of theory makes its practical intellectual and political usefulness less than clear, I have included in most sections some works (marked by an asterisk *) that apply the given theory or method to particular American topics. In offering both primary works of theory and secondary commentaries on them, I have tried to accommodate the needs of both persons new to issues in theory and method and those with more experience.

This bibliography grew out of my teaching of a graduate course on theory and method in American Studies and I believe that it is in such a pedagogical context that it will prove most effective. But I have designed it to be useful to any individual wishing to learn more about cultural theory and method, with special reference to but not restricted to those who study that large and amorphous material-symbolic space called "America."

A much shorter version of this essay originally appeared in American Studies International (Oct. 1992). This Web version is updated frequently, so I welcome comments and suggestions for additions, substitutions or corrections.

A section, "Theorizing Interdisciplinarity," is in the works. I am also slowly expanding the number of hypertext links. One general online resource I wish to note at the beginning, given the number of citations to the journal below, is American Quarterly which now has a Web site. AQ articles hyperlinked in this essay require a password gained through subscription to the journal.

Return to Top