The breakdown of notions of American exceptionalism
and class consensus analyzed in section IV, was driven in large part by social movements of the 1960s. Those movements also set in motion a profound rethinking and rewriting of ethnicity, race, gender,
sexuality and other modalities of "difference" that further challenged monolithic conceptions of Americanness. This process was fueled by the rise of ethnic and women's studies within and outside AS. And the new scholarly attention payed to previously marginalized subjects of history deeply reshaped theories and methods of study.
This category in particular points up the inadequacies of categorization,
especially in interdisciplinary work. Separating race from gender from sexuality from my
other categories threatens to re-marginalize them just as they are claiming
their centrality to any cultural analysis. Hence I have also placed works
reexamining these topics in other sections, cross-referencing some of them
here. In addition, while separating racial studies from gender studies from sexuality studies serves to highlight
their respective evolutions and achievements, it does so at
the cost of obscuring multiple identities and complex interactions. Thus each subsection is structured to move towards points of intersection with the other categories.
And I employ this collective category not to ghettoize or collapse distinctions
but to highlight interconnections, to point to important work that cuts
across several sub-groupings, and to suggest that many of the writers cited
here share a set of theoretical concerns emerging from a reconceptualization
of relations between putative cultural "centers" and "margins."
To this end, I've concentrated on work that refuses to simply "add
in" race, ethnicity or gender or sexuality but that claims that attention to any
one in isolation, let alone in combination, entails totally reconceptualzing
what has been called the "mainstream."
Feminist, gay/lesbian/queer, racial and ethnic theory have had a profound impact on all levels
and kinds of humanities and social science scholarship. Thus these works
should be read as at once substantive contributions to their fields, and
as critiques of the inadequate theorization of gender, race, sexuality and other constructions of cultural difference in traditional AS work (as well as in humanities
and social science scholarship generally). For the stake of ease of operation I have divided the sections below into Gender, Sexuality, and Race/Ethnicty, but I want to stress that the best current work, including much scholarship cited below, is being done at the interesections of these and related modalities of difference (especially class, which is central in Section IV, among other places).
FEMINST AND GENDER THEORIES
Chmaj, Betty ed.,
American Women and American Studies.
Pittsburg: Know Press,
Image, Myth and Beyond: American Women and American Studies, Vol. 2.
Pittsburg: Know Press, 1972. These two collections exemplify early efforts
to link American Studies to the then emerging field of Women's Studies.
Baxter, Annette. "Women's Studies and American Studies: The Uses of
the Interdisciplinary." American Quarterly26 (1974): 433-439. Review essay of early
feminist AS work.
Abel, Elizabeth and Emily Abel eds.,
The 'Signs' Reader: Women, Gender, and
Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1983.
Keohane, Nannerl et al. eds.
Feminist Theory: A Critique of Ideology.
Univ. of Chicago Press, 1982. This volume and the Abel volume above are
collections of essays culled from Signs, one of the preeminent American
journals of feminst theory. Both volumes contain brilliant essays on topics
ranging across a wide variety of social science and humanities disciplines
and interdisciplines, representing the state of the art in feminist scholarship
in the early 1980s. In the Keohane collection see especially pieces by MacKinnon,
Jehlen, and Marcus.
Baym, Nina. "Melodramas of Beset Manhood: How Theories of American
Literature Exclude Women," in Showalter, ed.,
The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature,
New York: Pantheon, 1985. A
very influential article which demonstrates some of the ways in which a
bias towards masculinist definitions of heroism have effectively devalued
the literature produced by women and theorized the "major tradition"
of American letters as male.
Tompkins, Jane. "Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Politics
of Literary History," in Showalter,
The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature,
New York: Pantheon, 1985. Coming
at the same problematic as Baym from the other side, Tompkins argues that
one important, largely female tradition of writing, the sentimental novel,
has been devalued and systematically misrepresented through the universalization
of a particular, restrictive set of criteria for literary value.
Anzaldua, Gloria, and Cherrķe Moraga, eds., This Bridge Called My Back. New York: Kitchen
Table/Women of Color Press, 1983. While women of color played key roles in feminist
movements from the beginning, racism preventing them from being
recognized as central figures. This landmark collection of "critical and
creative" writings by women of color changed all that, leading to a
profound rethinking of race and gender, while also challenging narrow
definitions of "theory" by arguing for fiction, poetry, and other forms of
writing as theory.
de Lauretis, Teresa, ed.,
Feminist Studies/Critical Studies.
Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1986. A rich collection of essays surveying the
state of feminist cultural theory across a range of disciplines. De Lauretis's
introduction is an important contribution to theory itself, and virtually
all of the articles make significant contributions to the current state
of cultural theory.
Feminist Literary Theory: A Reader.
London and New York: Basil Blackwell,
1988. A very wide-ranging sampling of brief excerpts from classic and contemporary
examples of feminist criticism that can be useful for gaining a general
Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse and Gender in Contempory
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. A series
of essays analyzing various recent theorists (Foucault, Derrida, Rorty,
Habermas) in terms of their usefulness and limits for feminist theory and
practice. Concludes with an examplary analysis of women and the welfare
system that applies aspects of the various theorists surveyed.
"Feminism and Deconstruction." Special issue of FS: Feminist Studies
14 (1988). See especially the article by Poovey and the dissenting arguments
Newton, Judith and Deborah Rosenfelt eds.,
Feminist Criticism and Social
Change: Sex, Class and Race in Literature and Culture.
New York and London Methuen, 1985.
The introduction, the essays by Jones and Smith, and Lauter's piece on the
American canon, are of particular interest.
Showalter, Elaine ed.,
The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature,
New York: Pantheon, 1985. An accessible collection with a number of essays
of special relevance to Americanists. In addition to the Tompkins, Smith
and Baym articles cited elsewhere in this section, see especially the pieces
by Kolodny, Showalter and Zimmerman.
Smith, Barbara. "Towards a Black Feminist Criticism," in Showalter,
The New Feminist Criticism: Essays on Women, Literature,
New York: Pantheon, 1985. A landmark statement of the inadequacy of white
feminist theory to treat the different realities of black women in the US,
this essay also outlined an agenda of black feminist research much of which
remains to be accomplished.
hooks, bell. Feminist Theory: From the Margins to the Center.Boston: South End Press, 1984. Key text in the insurgency of women of color from "the
margins to the center" of feminist thought and action.
- Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness,
and the Politics of Empowerment.Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990. Landmark book in the development of
African American feminist theory, balances theory and practice, experience and reflection in surveying "black feminist thought" in a variety of spaces and places, "hig" and "low."
Lim, Shirley Geok-Lin, Mayumi Tsutakawa, and Donnellym Margarita, eds., The Forbidden Stitch : An Asian American Women's Anthology.New York: Calyx Books, 1991.
Wong, Diane Yen-Mei, and Emilya Cachapero. eds., Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings by and About Asian American Women.Boston: Beacon Press, 1989.
Kim, Elaine and Lilia Villaneuva, eds., Making More Waves: New Writing by Asian American Women.Boston: Beacon Press, 1997.
These three anthologies above provide a good sense of the evolution of Asian American feminist thought from the 1980s to the present.
Harjo, Joy and Gloria Bird, eds. Reinventing the Enemy's Language: Contemporary Native American Women's Writings of North America.New York: W.W. Norton, 1998. Excellent collection demonstrating a range of approaches to rethinking race and gender from the perspectives of indigenous women.
Sandoval, Chela. "US Third World Feminism: The Theory and Method of
Oppositional Consciousness in the Postmodern World," Genders10 (1991):
1-24. A brilliant article rethinking feminist and postmodern theory through
the multiply positioned subjectivity of women of color. Argues that a "women of color feminism" offers strategic methods for transcends dilemmas created by positing various schools of feminist theory (radical, cultural, socialist, liberal, postmodern, etc.) as mutually exclusive.
Hansen, Karen V. and Ilene J. Philipson, eds.
Women, Class and the Feminist
Imagination.Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 1990. This "socialist-feminist
reader" collects many of the most signficant essays from the 60s, 70s,
and 80s in which feminist scholars use, critique and debate the relevance
of various marxist concepts and positions.
Weed, Elizabeth ed.,
Coming to Terms: Feminism, Theory, Politics.
London and New York: Routledge,
1989. A brilliant collection of essays on feminist cultural/political interpretation
influenced by post-structuralism. See especially the pieces by Miller and
Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs and Women.London and New York: Routledge, 1991. Ten brilliant and influential essays on a range of topics, from the famous "Cyborg Manifesto" and "Situated Knowledges," to essays on feminst theory for science studies.
King, Katie. Feminist Theory in Its Travels.Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1994. Offers a brilliant argument about the social and intellectual struggles that have shaped what counts as feminist theory, and what the dominant trends in feminist thinking have been over time as driven by the evolution of women's movements.
Wendy K. and France Bartkowski, eds. Feminist Theory: A Reader.Mountain View, CA: Mayfield, 1999. Offers a wide-ranging survey of feminist thought for the 18th to the late 20th century. The breadth meangs sacrificing depth with many pieces severely condensed, but is a very useful survey to get a sense of major developments over time.
- Hesse-Biber, Sharlene, Robin Lydenberg, and Chris Gilmartin. eds., Feminist Approaches to Theory and Methodology : An Interdisciplinary
Reader.Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1999. Especially useful in its interdiscpilinary, comparative approach.
LESBIAN, GAY, QUEER THEORIES
Cruikshank, Margaret, ed.,
Old Westbury, NY: The Feminist
Press, 1982. Pioneering collection on approaches to lesbian literature,
culture, and history.
"The Lesbian Issue."
Special issue of the feminist journalSigns9 (1984). A more systematic attempt to theorize "lesbianism" as a cultural lcoation.
See especially the essays by Vicinus, Newton, Zimmerman, and Kennard.
"Displacing Homophobia." Special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly
88 (1989). Rich collection of gay male theory for literary and cultural
Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky.
Epistemology of the Closet.
Berkeley: Univ. of California
Press, 1990. Very influential study in the rise of "queer theory." Shows the centrality of homo/heterosexual identity formations
to the construction of knowledge in virtually every arena of scholarship,
but with particular attention paid to literary texts.
de Lauretis, Teresa, ed., "Queer Theory: Lesbian and Gay Sexualities." special issue of differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies2 (1991). Influential essays establishng the concept of "queer theory."
Gender Trouble.New York and London: Routledge, 1990. Influential as one of the sources of queer theory in that it denormativizes all genders. Uses Lacan and Foucault to argue that "gender" is a kind of unstable, constantly reiterated performance.
Fuss, Diana, ed.,
Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories.
London and New York: Routledge,
1991. A collection of very sophisticated multidisciplinary essays theorizing
gay and lesbian studies as a key matrix of cultural analysis. As the subtitle
suggests, the book insists on showing ways in which lesbianism and male
homosexuality produce differing theoretical issues and paradigms, but like
Kosofsky's book above, the anthology's larger claim is that the terms "gay"
and "lesbian" are not of interest in marking the margins of culture,
but rather ones essential for understanding the construction of cultural
forms and identities by the so-called mainstream as well.
Abelove, Henry, et. Al, eds., Lesbian and Gay Studies Reader.London and New York: Routledge, 1993. A very comprehensive resource, with historical, literary and cultural articles, and an extensive bibliography.
Jagose, Annamarie. Queer Theory: An Introduction.New York: New York Univ. Press, 1997. Gives a history of gay/lesbian studies, and thus situates queer theory in a larger context nicely. Lucid and succinct.
Weed, Elizabeth and Naomi Shor, eds., Feminism Meets Queer Theory.Bloomington: Indiana Univ Press. Excellent pieces collected from a special issue of the journal differences.
Warner, Michael. ed.,
Fear of a Queer Planet: Queer Politics and Social Theory.
Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1993. Excellent collection theorizing "queer" politics and cultural representations of homosexuality.
RACE & ETHNICITY
See also, "Section X: Postcolonial and Transnational Theories."
Hull, Gloria T. et al. eds.,
But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women's Studies.
Old Westbury, NY: Feminist Press, 1982. Pathbreaking collection of essays
and bibliographies tracing the intersections of women's studies, black studies,
and American studies.
Wall, Cheryl. ed.,
Changing Our Own Words.
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University
Press, 1989. A collection including some of the leading black feminist critics
employing Bakhtin, post-structuralism and other critical theories to analyze
writing by and about black women.
Gates, H.L., Jr., ed.,
Reading Black, Reading Feminist.
New York: Meriden Press,
1990. Along with the Wall collection above, these two anthologies gather
together important examples of black feminist literary scholarship from
the 1980s, including historical surveys, theoretical readings, and studies
of individual texts.
Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American
NY: Oxford, 1987. A theoretically innovative re-writing
of the genealogy of African-American intellectuals and writers, beginning
with slave narratives and ending with the 1920s, that places women in a
more central role and complicates the dialectic of rural and urban black
Omi, Michael, and Howard Winant.
Racial Formation in the United States.
Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, Second edition, 1994. Critiques ethnicity-, class-, and
nation-based models of race, then offers a brilliant social constructionist
argument for the semi-autonomous power of "racial formations" through
an analysis of trends in racial politics in the US since World War II. Extremely influential in the rise of "critical race" theories.
Baker, Jr., Houston.
Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular
Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1984. Uses neo-marxism, post-structuralism,
tropology and other recent critical theory to aid in rewriting the African-American
literary tradition as working dialectically through and out of the vernacular
(especially the blues) and the economic matrix of slavery.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis.
Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the 'Racial'
NY: Oxford Univ. Press, 1987.
The Signifying Monkey.
Oxfors and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1989. Gates is one of the most consistently
interesting American critics, and these two books include much of his finest
work, using contemporary literary theory to argue the specificity of African-American
literary and theoretical traditions.
From Behind the Veil.
Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 
1991. A landmark study tracing the key themes of "literacy" and
"freedom" as they shape an African-American tradition in fictional
and non-fictional prose from slave narratives to Invisible Man. This revised
version of Stepto's classic includes a new preface and an afterword on the
trope of reader distrust in African-American narratives.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis, ed.,
Black Literature and Literary Theory.
London and New York: Methuen,
1984. Collection of essays employing and critiquing structuralism and post-structuralism
as tools for interpreting African and African-American texts. See especially
Gates's introduction, and the essays by Benston, Stepto, and Johnson.
Asante, Molefi K. The Afrocentric Idea.Trenton, N.J.: Africa World Press, 1987. The most influential African
(american) figure arguing for the ongoing importance of Africanisms on the black diaspora.
Anzaldúa, Gloria, ed. ,
This Bridge Called My Back.
New York: Kitchen
Table/Women of Color Press, 1983.
---, and Cherríe Moraga, eds., Making Face, Making Soul: Haciendo Caras.
San Francisco: Aunt Lutte Foundation Press, 1990.
This Bridge is the key text in the creation of a broaad-based "women of color" or "Third World" feminist position. It and its follow-up collection, Making Face/Haciendo Caras,form two key collections of "critical and creative"
writings by women of color that have contributed immensely to the rethinking of race, class, sexuality, and gender,
while also challenging narrow definitions of "theory" by arguing
for fiction, poetry, and other forms of writing as theory.
Calderón, Hectór, and José David Saldívar, eds.,
Criticism in the Borderlands.
Durham: Duke University Press, 1991). Collects
many of the most influential essays in theory and criticism of Chicano/a
literature and culture from neo-Marxist, feminist, and new historicist vantage
points. Includes a useful select, annotated bibliography.
Chabram, Angie and Rosalinda Fregoso, eds.,
"Chicana/o Cultural Representations,"
special issue of Cultural Studies4.3 (1990). Includes nine essays surveying
the past, present and future of Chicano/a cultural studies (inclduing film,
literature, theatre, and ethnography), in terms of critical theories as
well as institutional forms and practices. Key moment in the linkage of Chicana/o studies and cultural studies.
Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference.
Madison: Univ. of Wisconsin Press, 1990. Employs neo-marxist and deconstructionist
approaches to a survey of narratives from Americo Paredes to Sandra
Culture and Truth: The Remaking of Social Analysis.
Beacon, 1989. An unusually lucid, jargon-free and politically pragmatic
introduction to key questions in "postmodern ethnography" with
special reference to Chicano culture(s).
Nomura, Gail, et al. eds.,
Frontiers of Asian American Studies.
Washington State Univ. Press, 1989. Part Four raises theoretical questions,
particularly with regard to the discipline of ethnic studies. The other
three sections include state-of-the-art essays on a range of topics from
history, literary studies, and the social sciences, treating both specific
traditions and relations among Americans of various Asian ancestries. Includes
excellent annotated bibliography divided by specific Asian American sub-groups.
Hume, Shirley, et al. eds.,
Asian Americans: Comparative and Global Perspectives.
Pullman: Washington State Univ. Press, 1991. Part One in particular raises
key theoretical issues. Among the more theoretically interesting topical
essays, see those by Marilyn Alquizola and David Leiwei Li.
Lowe, Lisa. Immgrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics.Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996. Brilliant use of postcolonial, marxist, critical race and feminist theory to analyze the complicated interrelations of Asian diasporic, Asian American and dominant communties in the U.S. Using the example of Asian immigration in its various waves, Lowe exposes the historical construction of dominant notions of U.S. nationhood and citizenship in dialectical relation to those it would exclude or only partially include within those categories.
Cheung, King-Kok, ed., An Interethnic Companion to Asian American Literature.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Outstanding collection of essays on the various literatures by Americans of Asian descent. Includes introductions to Chinese-, Japanese-, Korean-, Vietnamese-, Filipino-, and South Asian-American traditions, as well as essays on particular theoretical issues.
The Voice in the Margin.
Berkeley: Univ. of California Press,
1989. A series of interlinked essays relating special theoretical issues
in the study of native American Indian literatures and cultures (i.e., the
prominence of the oral) to problems of canonization and representativeness.
Martin, Calvin ed.,
The American Indian and the Problem of History.
Oxford and New York: Oxford
Univ. Press, 1987. Using Native American history as its focus, this collection
of short essays covers a very wide range of historical theory and method,
from the most positivistic to the almost deconstructive. It also provides
one point of entry into the important field of ethnohistory.
Vizenor, Gerald ed.,
Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourse on Native American
Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1988. Places contemporary
literary and cultural theory (especially Bakhtin) in tension with Native modes of thought while interpreting works by
contemporary Native American/AmericanIndian writers.
Warrior, Robert Allen.
Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions.
Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press, 1995. Uses the work of John Joseph Matthews and Vine Deloria, Jr. to initiate brilliant rethinking of American Indian intellectual traditions that skilfully unites indigenous resources, sovereignty issues and contemporary cultural theory.
JanMohamed, Abdul, and David Lloyd eds.,
The Nature and Context of Minority
Oxford and New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1990. A theoretically informed collection
of articles from a two-volume special issue of Cultural Critique examining
representational strategies in and strategic contexts for literatures of
US domestic and international "Third World" writers. See especially
pieces by Kaplan, Mani, Radhakrishnan, Rabasa and Rosaldo.
Gates, Jr., Henry Louis, ed.,
"Race," Writing, and Difference.
of Chicago Press, 1985;1986. This collection of essays from Critical Inquiry
includes a number of important pieces on race in America as well as key
contributions to post-colonial theory. See particularly the essays by Gates,
Said, Johnson, Carby and Gilman.
New York: Pantheon, 1978. A very influential study
of the racial "othering" of the Middle East by "the West." and one of the founding texts of postcolonial theory.
The World, the Text, and the Critic.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ.
Press, 1983. Extremely important and provocative collection of essays on
the relation of literary theory to the wider social world. See especially
"Introduction: Secular Criticism," "Reflections on American
'Left' Literary Criticism," and "Traveling Theory."
Trinh, Minh Ha.
Woman, Native, Other.
Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press,
1989. A formally innovative text that is at once feminist post-colonial
theory and an autobiography of this Vietnamese-American film-maker/scholar.
In Other Worlds.
London and New York: Methuen, 1987. Collects many of the
key essays by one of the foremost "post-colonial" cultural critics
who combines elements from deconstruction, feminist theory, and marxism.
---. "Can the Subaltern Speak?" " in Nelson and Grossberg,
Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1988. Immensely influential piece critiquing and using post-structuralism in the context of a meditation on the voice of the subaltern subject.