Elizabeth Fox-Genovese

Between Individualism and Fragmentation:
American Culture and the New Literary Studies of Race and Gender

V o l u m e 42 Number I
M a r c h 1 9 9 0.

AMERICAN STUDIES HAS ALWAYS HAD TO ENGAGE THE PROBLEM OF American identity and has even been tempted to see itself as the special custodian of our sense of ourselves as a people and a nation. (What does it mean to be an American? ) Until recently, American Studies, like our culture at large, tended to answer that to be an American meant to be, or to aspire to become, white, Protestant, middle class, male, and probably from the Northeast .From this perspective it naturally followed that first Longfellow, Whittier, and other representatives of the genteel tradition , and then Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, and their successors represent ed the essence of American culture.

The last two decades have shatter ed those illusions and turned American Studies into a battleground, with the concept of America n identity as the stakes. Today we know Americans to be female as well as male, black as well as white, poor as well as affluent, Catholic or Jewish as well as Protestant, and of diverse national and ethnic backgrounds. On occasion, even southerners receive some attention, although white southerners rarely, especially the more affluent. The last two decades have also witnessed a growing restiveness with any complacent assumptions that the culture of a privileged few could adequately represent the specific beliefs and practices of the many varieties of Americans.

Elizabeth Fox- Genovese is Eleonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities and Director of women s Studies at Emory University. She has most recently published Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (Chapel Hill, 1988) and "To Write the Wrongs of Slavery, " Cettysburg Review (winter, 1989) and is finishing a book titled "Feminism Without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism."

Our new eclecticism has included considerable soul-searching about what we mean by culture, with a general tendency to move toward a broad definition that can include the sum of any people's activities, practices, and beliefs, and it has questioned the artificial hierarchies that privilege some forms of cultural expression over others.1 The immediate casualty has been the willingness to accept the special place of "high" literary culture in our national self-representation.2 The long term casualty has been the possibility of acknowledging an American national culture.

The sharpness of the reaction against the equation of American culture with high literary culture testifies to the prior success in linking American culture with American identity. Those who reject the literary canon as the primary embodiment of American identity reject it as "not my canon or that of my people." If that canon ignores or demeans African-American women, how can an African-American woman be expected to acknowledge it as the highest expression of her identity as an American? The notion of culture as a powerful articulation of identity has thus emerged from the debates essentially unscathed, even as the battle over whose identity continues to rage. Thus, the growing numbers of postmodernists stake their conception of a transformed culture on expanding the numbers of voices to which we attend in order to let groups that have been excluded speak directly of their own experience.3

That battle, which pits conservatives against liberals and is, as con- servatives are wont to remind us, political to its core, is leading, directly or indirectly, to the replacement of a long uncontested hegemony of white, male authors, by a plurality of women, African-Americans, and members of various minority or marginalized groups. Increasingly, previously acknowledged canonical texts are, directly or indirectly, being replaced not merely by alternate texts such as domestic fiction and slave narratives, but by films, comics, television shows ,folk tales and songs, artifacts, quilts. For if many conventional courses are persisting largely untransformed, they are losing their exclusive status and being forced to compete with new courses devoted exclusively to the new scholarship. Increasingly, the conventional methods of history and literature are giving way to cultural anthropology, ethnography, oral history, the study of material culture, reader-response criticism, the sociology of literature. To its practitioners, the new American Studies embodies a welcome opening to pluralism, to its critics little more than a modern Tower of Babel. The battle for American Studies can only be understood as part of a larger struggle that encompasses all of the Humanities--our attitudes towards education, culture, texts, and criticism.4

Nationally, the struggle has attracted more attention than matters of cultural and educational policy normally warrant. From William Bennett's pronouncements on education to Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind to the debate over the Stanford curriculum, and beyond, tempers have flared over the purpose and content of teaching. Hence, the special case of American Studies received careful scrutiny in the pages of The Chronicle of Higher Education.5 Today the most pressing question appears to be whether any new synthesis is possible or even desirable. How, in other words, are we to weave the various cultures that we are learning to recognize and appreciate into a general view of American culture?

Much of the recent work in American Studies has been framed by the larger battle and self-consciously intended as an assault on established academic power.5 Thus Joan Scott, in a forum at the American Historical Association, openly conflated the introduction of new perspectives with the accession of new people.6 In a necessary first step, this work has, above all, attempted to establish the cultural integrity of non-canonical culture. The determination to right perceived wrongs has frequently led to an identification with the excluded, but that identification has, ironically, obscured the extent to which the new perspectives have triumphed. Today, the conservatives rank as the principal, embattled defenders of an unpopular position. The new work essentially rests on the assumption that the heretofore dominant tradition, abstracted from complex class, race, and gender relations, defended the prerogatives of a small elite to speak in the name of American culture as a whole. In so doing, that tradition marginalized or silenced outright the voices of those who did not belong to the white, male elite. To rectify that neglect, scholars have succeeded in imaginatively reclaiming the voices, representations, productions, and values of the oppressed and excluded, and they have demonstrated the cultural strength and richness of those who have been ignored. Yet the conceptual implications of this work remain, on the whole, as fragmented as the individual studies on which they are based. In other words, as Linda Kerber insisted in her keynote address to the 1988 American Studies Association meeting, American Studies scholars have been "early to widen the definition of what constitutes a text," to understand the links among Emerson's essays, Harriet Jacobs's Our Nig, and Campbell's soup cans, but have, withal, "remained too much a part of the complacency and status quo we deplore."7

The next step, in Kerber's view, which I share, must consist in understanding "difference as a series of relationships of power, involving domination and subordination, and to use our understanding of the power relations to reconceptualize both our interpretation and our teaching of American culture."8 Some promising exceptions notwithstanding, they have given rise neither to a new synthesis nor a clear theory.9 Thus, for example, Werner Sollors's arresting study Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture offers "consent" and "descent" as fruitful metaphors for understanding the relation of ethnic cultures to the dominant culture, but has little to say about the specific writers and texts of the dominant culture, or even about race and gender, much less class."' The challenge remains to understand the pattern of marginalized cultures in relation to each other as well as in relation to the canonical culture, and, especially, the relation between the canonical culture and the ideal of a national culture.

The ideas of canonical and national have largely developed in tan- dem, although they have potentially different implications. For the most recalcitrant defenders of canonical culture normally have in mind the Western tradition beginning with the Greeks, whereas the defenders of national culture have to wrestle with American culture's longstanding sense of itself as derivative, secondary, or "colonial" in relation to that tradition. The conservatives do not help much on this score, for they give scant attention to the new scholarship--except for occasional angry outbursts on its allegedly excessive claims and misreadings-and certainly do not propose a general theory or synthesis that would take account of its claims. The critics of the canon, for their part normally conflate its specifics with its claim to represent all of American experience; accordingly, they dismiss the possibility of a core experience. The ghost of the canon lingers in their writing as an object of attack, but no successor has taken its place. Thus, the cultures of women, African-Americans, working people, and ethnic groups are normally considered for their specific dynamics and in relation to the canon or dominant groups that excluded, oppressed, or ignored them, but rarely m relation to other previously ignored groups. Identity in this perspective becomes primarily identity in relation to other members of the group, community primarily the community of the group itself. In a sense, this attitude flows logically from the writings that are being rediscovered. African-Americans, Jewish-Americans, women, and others who sought to capture their distinct experience normally focused on their relations as writers and as individuals to what they accepted as "American" culture--focused on what W. E. B. DuBois captured in his memorable words.

It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in an amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his twoness--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder." Feminist and African-American literary studies have, perhaps, most directly and systematically explored the power of the sense of twoness among those whom they study. They have especially attacked the assumption that the quintessential American self can be represented by the solitary white male individual and have focused on the distinct experience of those whose identities that representation denied. 12 In so doing, they have primarily sought to recreate the alternate senses of self and community of women and African-Americans. These concerns have led both feminist and African-American scholarship to deploy a panoply of new methods and to address a variety of new topics in their quest to understand the dynamics of self and community among the excluded. They have especially questioned the assumption that texts may enjoy privileged status on the basis of their quality, as if they existed independent of society and history.

Frequently the new scholarship of race and gender, in insisting that the status of texts depends precisely upon society and history, appears to question whether we can appropriately speak of a unified culture at all.'3 Yet women and African-American writers were themselves preeminently conscious of a dominant American culture. They have fully understood that the idea of a prestigious, dominant culture was promoted by successive elites who had the political, social, and economic power to claim to speak in the name of American society as a whole. But they also took its claims seriously and did not readily jettison its standards of excellence. For us similarly to recognize the hegemony of that culture is not to slight the claims of the innumerable discrete cultures, especially those of women and African-Americans, but is merely to recognize that the elite conception of American culture was able to offer itself as the standard against which all discrete cultures had to define themselves, or at least as the standard that those who aspired to be taken seriously by it had to match.

The dominant culture, in other words, challenged women and members of other excluded groups to frame their own experience at least in part according to its norms. For many, as DuBois's words suggest the response to that challenge required a form of bilingualism. Thus Henry Roth, in his brilliant novel, Call It Sleep, poignantly evoked the young Jewish boy's attempt to navigate between the language of his mother and the language of school 14 His conundrum admitted no facile resolution. His mother's voice was that of home, love, nurture and the traditions of his forbears; the voice of school was that of the new country and his own advancement--the voice that would eventually permit him to master and recreate the specific conflicts and wonders of his childhood.

The general case of bilingualism carried special force and poignancy for women and for African-Americans. Between them, the feminist and African-American challenges to our inherited notion of a unified American culture largely define the main lines of the broader attacks on that culture. For if both challenge the narrow elitism of the view of culture as a privileged, white male preserve, and if both insist upon the existence and integrity of alternate cultures, namely those of women and those of African-Americans, in the end they do so on somewhat different grounds. The feminist attack on established culture understandably emphasizes gender and sexuality, arguing that to understand culture from a male perspective ignores the experience and perceptions of half of humanity. The African-American attack, in contrast, emphasizes the importance of a people's distinct cultural legacy. The most extreme separatist claims notwithstanding, feminist scholarship does not necessarily challenge the predominance of white American Protestant culture; it challenges the ways in which individuals of different genders experienced and elaborated that culture. African-American scholarship challenges precisely that predominance, although it does not necessarily challenge the predominance of men over women. However different their perspectives and implications, the literary scholarship of race and gender each delineate an encompassing attack on a white, male canon that denied the experience and identities of AfricanAmericans and women.

Langston Hughes's "A Theme for English B," explores the complexities of that unequal bicultural or bilingual experience.'5 Hughes, representing himself as the only colored student in his class but as liking the same things as white students, wonders whether if being asked to write of himself within the context of white education does not amount to being asked to shape himself to fit the expectations of white America--to adopt white speech, a foreign tongue, as his own? How do you write your self in someone else's words? in another people's words? What can be the relation between the objective struc- ture of our canon or tradition and the subjective experience of individuals? What can be the relation between the hallowed traditions of whites as a people and the experience of blacks as a people? "Being me, it will not be white. / But it will be / a part of you, instructor." The instructor is white, "yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. / That's American."'6

Hughes thus raises, as a matter of personal experience and identity, the problem that Houston Baker has discussed in Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance.'7 How can a black student establish the links between his personal identity, what Baker calls "family history," and the language of his people's oppressors? Hughes, refusing to accept the racist implications of radical difference between the experience of his represented self and that of his white classmates, insists that he, too, likes bebop and Bach, that he is partially immersed in white culture as they are, in lesser degree, immersed in black. But writing the self presents a special challenge, for the codes of selfhood have been derived from white culture. The white modernism of Joyce and Eliot does not "sound" like the history of African-Americans. Baker's point is that the success of the Harlem Renaissance cannot fairly be measured by white, modernist criteria. Hughes's point is yet more complex and more fundamental. For Hughes, in writing his poem, does inscribe a representation of himself in the words of others and, in so doing, insists upon his independent right also to claim their tradition as his own-even as he recognizes the ways in which it denies him.

Alice Walker develops similar themes in her story, "A Sudden Trip Home in Spring," poignantly exploring the response of Sarah, a black student, to the white college that has no place for the writers that represent her tradition and experience. Sarah's roommate has never heard of Richard Wright, nor of any black poets--"half of America's poetry." For Sarah, Wright remains compelling especially because of his difficulty in dealing with his own father whom, in childhood, he had seen, as children are wont to see fathers, as "Godlike," as "big omnipotent, unpredictable and cruel," as "entirely in control of his universe"; and who, in adulthood, he had recognized as "just an old watery-eyed field hand." What, Sarah wondered with Wright, was "the duty of a son to a destroyed man?" Sarah herself could not draw black men, for she could not bear "to trace defeat onto blank pages." How could she now deal with the death of her own father who, like Wright's seemed to close the doors to the rooms of the mansion of this life and by implication, the next? Walker underscores Sarah's rootlessness and suspension between the Georgia of her people and the intellectual world of her own present and future. Where was Sarah's home? How could she claim as home a place in which she spent weeks trying "to sketch or paint a face that is unlike every other face around me?" Sarah's trip to Georgia for her father's funeral reminds her that among her people she is at home even as it reminds her that college too has, in important ways, become her home.

So where was Sarah's home? What did she find in Georgia? And having found it, why did she return to college? College, Walker suggests, had already given her something, if only the knowledge of Dylan Thomas that led her to wish a red coffin for her father, to wish him not to go "gentle into that good night." College, as her brother reminds her, is what her mother would have wanted for her, and her father too--the education she deserves. To spend weeks trying to draw one face is what education is about. Only when she has learned to draw that face--to represent the men of her people--will she be free to go where she chooses.

To rage, with Thomas, against the "dying of the light " Sarah had to learn to claim the history of black men, had to be able to see her grandfather in all his pride, simply as he was, "his face turned proud and brownly against the light." Having finally seen him that way, free from all the "anonymous, meaningless people," she could paint him or, better yet, plan to make him, as he himself suggested, up in stone. For his eyes spoke to her of yes as well as no, just as her brother's courage suddenly became her "door to all the rooms." And, with the yes and no, Walker glancingly evokes another of Sarah's debts to her white education, for her insistence on seeing both yes and no in the eyes of the men of her people shows her having made the vision of Albert Camus her own, having recognized it as also about her own life. From Camus, Sarah could borrow the fundamental insight of The Rebel: "What is a rebel? A man who says no.18 But if he refuses, he does not renounce: he is also a man who says yes, from his first movement."19 Burying her father and planning to make her grandfather up in stone Sarah had reclaimed the men of her own people and had thereby learned how to take from another people's education what she needed. Langston Hughes and Alice Walker, exploring their own situations as writers between two cultures, followed in the tradition of their people.20 For if, as Henry Louis Gates has argued in a bold theory of African-American literary criticism, African-American writers have largely learned to write by reading texts of the Western tradition, and have largely been trained "to think of the institution of literature essentially as a set of Western texts," they have also worked out of a black vernacular tradition that has provided them with the central topoi and tropes that they have shared with other African-American writers.21 In The Signifying Monkey, Gates elaborates a theory for the systematic reading of the distinct African-American literary tradition and for understanding the relation between the African-American vernacular and literary traditions--primarily he seeks ways to consider the African-American tradition on its own terms, to allow it to speak in its own voice . 22

Gates, in other words, offers an elegant and challenging theory of African-American literature as poised and constantly negotiating between a predominantly oral vernacular and a formal literary tradition. Although he avoids using "popular" as a category, he is clearly addressing its proper meaning as of the people, and thereby seeking to delineate the ties that bind a people's inherited sense of itself to its literary expression. In this respect, he is, at least in part, building upon and developing W. E. B. DuBois's notion of "twoness." But, in the end, even Gates is more interested in recovering the distinct African roots of that twoness than in exploring African-Americans' engagement with elite American culture.

There can be no doubt, as the work of Toni Morrison powerfully demonstrates, that a distinct African-American oral tradition has persisted into our own time, and informs the work and identities of innumerable African-American writers. But from the start, and especially since the mid-nineteenth century, African-American writers have also attended to the models of elite literate culture. The move from oral to written itself requires an act of translation and, as African-American writers effect it, they inescapably commit themselves to participating in some measure in a culture that is not of their own people's making. That act of translation further commits them, whatever their intentions, to viewing their people's community through the eyes of the observer. Like Zora Neale Hurston, who in Jonah's Gourd Vine carefully translates the more obscure words of dialect for her potential white readers, they must always think of how the vernacular should be spelled on the printed page. 23 Even if they remain direct participants in the oral culture of their youth, they necessarily do so in some measure as outsiders. The tragedy of twoness, which cannot be divorced from its potential richness, consists in that inevitable alienation.

The African-American literary tradition has developed through constant interaction with the dominant (white) culture, although the relations between African-American writers and that culture have changed in relation to changing historical conditions.24 As Susan Willis has cogently argued, and as Toni Morrison's Beloved breathtakingly demonstrates, African-American women's fiction can only be understood as the product and reenactment of history, specifically the history of the South and slavery.25 The continuing engagement with slavery testifies to African-American women writers' continuing engagement with the central myth of modern American culture--the myth of individual freedom and equality.26 From Harriet Jacobs to Frances Ellen Watkins Harper to Pauline Hopkins and beyond, African-American women writers implicitly and explicitly confront the dominant white traditions--male and female--with their hypocrisy and bad faith.27 But in doing so, they draw directly upon the proclaimed standards of the tradition itself, beginning with the Bible but including fiction and political theory.

Beginning with Phillis Wheatley, they have also adopted the forms of that culture, adapting them to their own visions, but also accepting most of their formal constraints and many of their cultural assumptions. These aspects of African-American women's writing have been slow to attract attention, most likely because the simple acknowledgment of their having been written required heroic efforts of demystification 28 Not surprisingly, most of the ground breaking work has been devoted to the sustained project of recovery that established basic facts, notably that the first African-American novel, Our Nig, was written by a woman, and that the most highly crafted narrative by a slave woman, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, was, as its title page proclaimed, "written by herself."29 On the basis of these foundations, scholars are now building a clearer picture of the accomplishments of African-American women writers, as evidenced in the splendid Schomburg Library edition.30

For these women writers, alienation carried special and complex meaning. For if, as Hazel Carby has argued for Nella Larsen's Quicksand, it was experienced as a personal state of mind, it was never only that.31 The alienation of the African-American woman writer inevitably evoked the condition of her people and, especially, the implications of her own ties to them. Most, accordingly, intermingled sharp protests against degradation, exclusion, and oppression with direct testimony to their own ability to meet genteel social and literary standards. Harriet Wilson's Our Nig, which explodes with ill-contained anger, constitutes the principal exception to this tendency prior to the twentieth century when first Zora Neale Hurston and then Alice Walker turned, albeit differently than Wilson, to the recovery of African-American folk culture.32 But, as Carby has also argued, to reduce the tradition of African-American women's writing exclusively to a romanticization of the rural folk is sorely to miss its point.33

In Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Harriet Jacobs crafted a self- representation that she intended for the consumption of a white, northeastern, middle-class, female readership. Her text simultaneously cultivates and wars with the expectations of purity and gentility that she knew she had to meet to serve the cause of abolition. Jacobs took great pains to differentiate her protagonist, Linda Brent, from the ordinary women of the slave community. Depicting Brent as speaking in flawless English, Jacobs implicitly drew a sharp contrast between her and the other slave women on the plantation whom she depicted as speaking in dialect. And although less broadly educated than her contemporary, Charlotte Forten, like Forten, she evokes Anglo-American high culture as a means of locating her text within that general discourse and locating herself as author as a potential member of the republic of letters. Those who came after, from Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Pauline Hopkins to Nella Larsen and Jessie Fausset, more often than not similarly wrote in "standard" English for an educated middle-class audience. The consolidation of the African-American bourgeoisie influenced their concerns as well as their style, especially their determination to demonstrate their social and literary respectability. That concern with respectability did not undercut their concern for their people, nor did the larger society permit them to sever their identification with even the least polished members of it, but they also refused to relinquish their own aspirations to respect and excellence as writers. For these women, first slavery and then the plight of the African-American rural and urban working classes constituted an undeniable aspect of their own identity as African-Americans--a moral responsibility that they could never forsake--but never an alternative to elite culture.

Literate African-Americans have always engaged the dominant culture. They have not necessarily accepted its premises about themselves nor countenanced its neglect of the vernaculars of their own kind, but engage it they have. And how could we expect them to have done otherwise? For the dominant culture advanced the prevailing standards of excellence and embodied the values of that republic of letters from which most writers have sought acceptance and respect. No less important, it enjoyed disproportionate control of the production and distribution of books.34 Much of the tension and conflict that characterize powerful writing derive from the need to mediate between the writer's "mother" tongue and the language of formal culture. If written culture bears witness to the experience of the particular experience of the individual, it also aspires to that measure of universality or, yes, abstraction, that will make the individual's experience accessible to others. The dominant culture has in truth exhibited an arrogant disdain for the contributions of women, African-Americans, and others to their particular cultures; worse, it has been blind and deaf to their explorations of the human condition. But if the particularity of such writers is scorned, how could their universality be recognized? The bigotry of the dominant culture has thus made a mockery of its greatest strength, namely its insistence that the representation of individual experience illuminate our understanding of what it is to be human. In response to this denial, leading scholars of African-American culture have increasingly insisted on the divorce between it and the dominant culture. However understandable their impulse, it sadly denies an important dimension of African-American writers' aspirations and ironically reinforces the current postmodernist and fragmentary tendencies of the dominant culture itself.

More sharply than any other ethnic culture, the African-American tradition exposes the tensions that bind discrete American peoples to the dominant culture. For more than any other ethnic group, African-Americans have been individually and collectively stigmatized first by the experience of slavery and then by race. Indeed African-American women writers have consistently wrestled with both questions, without ever feeling free to distance themselves as individuals or as members of the middle class from the condition of their people in general. In this respect, the power of the dominant culture to mask the reality and significance of class divisions while simultaneously denying the legitimacy of black nationalism has reinforced the notion of racial identity as the primary determinant of individual status. And the recent literary studies of race have tended to follow that lead, albeit in reversing its values. Yet most African-American women writers did not see their purpose as the celebration of oral culture, much less as the divorce of their own work from the dominant culture.

Feminist scholars have similarly castigated the dominant culture, in their case for its denial and silencing of women--for its pretensions that elite, white, male culture properly represents American identity. In Nina Baym's strong formulation, American critics have resolutely and purposefully misread our literary past in their determination literally to recreate it as a literature of beset manhood, or, as I should prefer to call it, of anxious male autobiography.35 Following this lead, Jane Tompkins has demonstrated that Hawthorne's reputation derived in no small measure from the concerted efforts of his friends and relatives, from his position as a well-connected, white, northeastern male.36 Tompkins juxtaposes the case of Hawthorne's fabricated reputation to that of Harriet Beecher Stowe who, although she enjoyed remarkable popularity and even respect in her day, has been marginalized by literary posterity as one of those "scribbling women" whom Hawthorne jeal- ously deplored.37

One feminist scholar after another has seconded Tompkins's view, insisting that the picture of a uniform American tradition or national destiny rests upon ideological choices, upon a willful simplification of complex realities and relations. They are, that is, arguing that the principle of "to the victor belongs the spoils" has dominated culture and imagination as well as politics and economics. The prevailing view of what is worth reading primarily depends upon some people's vision of Americans as a people, on some people's ability to impose their views on others.38 American Studies based on the reading of Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Poe, and their successors amounts to little more than a usable past for a white, northeastern, male elite. Thus the new literary studies of gender, in labeling this received notion of a usable past as a self-serving deception that has deprived most of us of our true culture, has complemented the new literary studies of race in contesting its claim to centrality.

In reaction to the excessive claims for the representativeness of the canon, feminist critics have sought to identify and explicate a distinct female literary tradition and its relation to women's distinct experience. In an impressively thoughtful and learned study, Mary Kelley adopted the rubric "literary domestics" to capture the spirit of women writers caught between their commitment to the privacy of women's nature and mission and their participation in the public world as successful writers. Annette Kolodny, also emphasizing women's domestic vision, has argued that women developed their own fantasies of the West that differed significantly from those of men. Judith Fryer has traced the theme of women's perceptions of private and public--self and world-through Edith Wharton's and Willa Cather's "imaginative structures," their representations of space.39 Although these scholars do not argue explicitly that women were negotiating between a vernacular and the literary culture in which they sought to inscribe themselves, they do draw heavily upon women's private, as well as published, writings to reconstruct the women's lives and values, which they view as radically different from those of men. Overwhelmingly, they emphasize what women shared as women as the mainspring of women's writing and imaginations.40 They thus reinforce the general tendency in feminist theory to see the pressing intellectual problem of our time as recognizing and understanding difference and marginalization, as recuperating the voices that the dominant culture has silenced.4'

Women, according to many of these critics, have developed a distinct perspective on American society and, implicitly and explicitly, have held dominant male values to account. Mindful of the stringent conditions that have governed their possibilities for happiness and security, women have normally refrained from open revolt against prevailing values, but nonetheless found innumerable subtle ways of criticizing them. This view, however, as some feminist critics are beginning to understand, risks submerging the experience of different groups of women under a single homogenizing model.42 In effect, the dominant tendency in literary studies of gender inadvertently tends towards countering the dominant image of the elite, white male self with a complementary image of an elite, white female self. But this general model of the female self does not even account for the experience and perceptions of elite, white southern women who, like their men, normally opposed the very premises of white, northeastern culture.43

Caroline Lee Hentz, a prolific and accomplished novelist, directly countered Harriet Beecher Stowe's influential Uncle Tom's Cabin with The Planter's Northern Bride. Feminist scholars have devoted considerable effort to demonstrating the ways in which Harriet Beecher Stowe engaged the necessity of abolition from a distinct female perspective. Yet a comparison with The Planter's Northern Bride clearly reveals that, however much Stowe spoke in the female voice, she spoke in the female voice of her class, race, and region. She never, moreover, decisively repudiated the values of the men of her community. For if she chastised their mistakes and their excesses, she nonetheless shared with them an immersion in a specific form of white, Protestant, individualistic culture. Certainly Caroline Lee Hentz, a northeasterner by birth, purposefully echoed the elite, male culture of her region in condemning the oppression and tragedy engendered by wage labor and in celebrating the superior qualities of the beneficent slave holder.44

Throughout a career that extended from the 1850s until the early twentieth century, Augusta Jane Evans yet more dramatically engaged the high (male) culture of her day. In her first three novels, Inez ( 1854), Beulah (1859), and Macaria (1863), she systematically and successively explored the problems of Catholicism which she abhorred, of faith which she believed essential, and the legitimacy of the southern cause in the Civil War which she unequivocally supported.45 In each of these novels, especially Beulah, she also explored the related problems of women's identity and independence. Evans never questioned the importance of female strength, nor the importance, within ac- ceptable bounds, of female initiative and self-accountability. But she sharply rejected the northeastern model of individualism and celebrated woman's acceptance of her proper role within marriage and, above all, her willing subordination to God who guaranteed any worthy social order. Although Beulah includes some of the themes that were appearing in northeastern women's fiction, notably a critique of the prevailing obsession with fashionable values and hypocritical religious observance, in essential ways it departs radically from conventional domestic fiction. And although it seriously engages the implications of individualism for women, it endorses the distinct southern values of hierarchy and particularism. The novel can profitably be read as a gloss on early nineteenth-century high culture, especially Coleridge and Carlyle, whom Evans deeply admired. Unabashedly learned, Evans used her fiction to explore the most serious intellectual issues of her day.

Hentz and Evans can no more be fit neatly into any general model of nineteenth-century womanhood than can Harriet Jacobs, however much they, like she, might occasionally borrow its rhetoric for their own purposes. After the war, as before, southern white women, like African-American women, found themselves frequently at odds with the prevailing models of womanhood and might as easily turn for ideas and interchange to the writings of men as to those of other women. Women who took their own literary aspirations seriously especially turned to men, or possibly to Charlotte Bronte or George Eliot, because they sought recognition by what they viewed as the literary elite. For them, the canon that we are trying to dismantle, enjoyed genuine literary and intellectual prestige. Their acceptance of its general merits did not in their minds, include acceptance of all of its specific attitudes but they did see it as legitimately representing the pinnacle of national culture. Women and African-Americans, including African-American women, have developed their own ways of criticizing the attitudes and institutions that hedged them in. Confronted with a rigidly class-, race-, and gender-specific models of acceptability, they have manipulated the language to speak in a double tongue, simultaneously associating themselves with and distancing themselves from the dominant models of respectability. Their continuous negotiation with the possibilities that the culture has afforded them has had nothing to do with a mindless acceptance of themselves as lesser. It has had everything to do with their determination to translate the traditions and values of their own communities into a language that would make them visible to others--and with their own determination to participate in American culture. As conservatives insist, the central questions are political. In general, the new literary studies of race and gender have positioned themselves resolutely on the left end of the liberal spectrum, even as they have-for whatever reasons--sharply distanced themselves from Marxism. Since Marxist thought had, until very recently, paid little attention to race, gender, and ethnicity per se, scholars who are primarily concerned with African-American, women's, and ethnic culture have some grounds for believing that Marxism does not directly or adequately address the issues that most interest them.46 But the real problem seems to lie with the general view of Marxism as at least as authoritarian and mechanical as the earlier elitist consensus.47 For, in general, the new literary studies in race and gender have focused on recovering personal experience rather than a systematic view of the central dynamics of American society and culture.48 The haste to dismiss Marxism thus merges with a general disinclination to engage general theories of social and cultural relations and leaves many of the new studies hostage to the models that they are attacking.

Rather than engaging the battle for American culture as a whole, many of the new studies have, if anything, enthusiastically embraced fragmentation, variously described as diversity or pluralism. They, accordingly, risk settling for a one-sided reading. At issue is not the importance of recuperating previously excluded voices, and assuredly not the importance of demonstrating the integrity of African-American or women's cultures. African-American writers read and built upon other African-American writers just as women writers read and built upon other women writers. As Gates, himself building upon a tradition of African-American scholarship has argued, African-American writers have retained strong ties to the vernacular cultures of their people.

Similarly, women writers have retained close ties to the everyday lives of women. Neither African-Americans nor women unquestioningly accepted the negative views of themselves engendered by elite white men, even if those views occasionally caused some pain and anxiety. But these discrete cultures developed within a larger society and polity with which, in some measure, they identified. To sacrifice that context is to abandon the attempt to understand the ways in which AfricanAmericans, women, and others related to each other and, especially, to those who wielded cultural as well as social and political power. It is, in effect, to lose the national dimension of the American in American Studies.

Any concept or notion of identity and culture as the articulation of community forces us to confront the problem squarely, for the cultures and communities that constitute America have notoriously permeable boundaries. If African-American and women writers understood their identities to derive, in important ways, from the communities to which they belonged, as writers they did not readily accept that they should have access only to the communities to which they were assigned. They did not accept the view that they should be defined solely in terms of their race or gender. African-American writers did not read only other African-American writers; women writers did not read only other women writers. And if they drew upon their own experience to fashion narratives and visions, they also sought to link that experience to the accepted central traditions of American--and beyond it Western--culture as a whole.

The vast majority of African-American and women writers have not belonged to homogeneous communities. Literate African-Americans have never been able to avoid regular interaction with whites; literate women have never been able to avoid interaction with men. Whatever we may view the boundaries of their immediate, affective communities, both African-Americans and women have lived in and belonged to more than one community-frequently to several interlocking social or cultural communities.

Werner Sollors's model of consent and descent begins to engage the central issues, but does not exhaust them, especially in the cases of race and gender in which both consent and descent remained problematic. He has argued that we have overemphasized and actually misrepresented the significance of ethnicity in American culture, for ethnicity, far from being a distinct cultural identity based on community identification, is the product of precisely that objectifying elite gaze which scholars of ethnic cultures have warred against.

He can thus be read to suggest that mainstream American culture has created "ethnic" as a category for its own ends, in order to explain American diversity to itself and, perhaps even--Sollors does not put it this way--to ensure the marginalization or compartmentalization of subordinate cultural communities. If we push Sollors's insight to its logical conclusion, we should be forced to recognize that the very commitment of the new scholarship to acknowledging, naming, and appreciating ethnic--and I should add racial and gender--diversity risks confirming the exclusion of those groups from the cultural mainstream. The celebration of ethnicity amounts to a reinforcement of marginalization--a reinforcement of the idea that those who consent to join the dominant culture leave their culture of origin behind them.49

T. S. Eliot insisted that we cannot hope to understand culture if we thoughtlessly identify it with individual experience. Culture, he might have said, cannot be reduced to autobiography. Instead, he said that the culture of the individual is dependent upon the culture of a group or class, and that the culture of the group or class is dependent upon the culture of the whole society to which that group or class belongs. Therefore it is the culture of the society that is fundamental...50 Culture must be understood as a manifestation of interlocking and hierarchically related communities. Relations of power inescapably color the ways in which we perceive ourselves in relation to others, ourselves in relation to the past, ourselves in relation to humanity. To put it differently, we know ourselves through the languages available to us and the languages that we know inescapably influence what we perceive ourselves to be. Individual perception is not prior to or separate from collective identity; individual perception is a function of collective identity.

Some scholars of the American literary tradition are beginning to explore its relation to prevailing social and economic relations, notably T. Michael Gilmore, Walter Benn Michaels, and others who share their perspective. This work is revealing the ways in which American literature implicitly or explicitly testified to the contradictions that undergirded the celebration of the autonomous individual.51 Sacvan Bercovitch has compellingly insisted on the relation between the American self and the history of American culture.52 Bercovitch, together with Myra Jehlen and others, has also insisted that we recognize the ideological dimension of even the texts we most value.53 Recently, Jeffrey Steele has offered a close investigation of the concept of the self in the American Renaissance.54 For more than a decade, Carroll Smith Rosenberg has been exploring the ways in which gender structured American identity and social relations.55 Amy Lang has charted the ways in which changing social and political preoccupations influenced the ways in which men (re)constructed Anne Hutchinson to embody their visions of gender and dissent.56 And Gillian Brown has demonstrated that the language of domesticity pervaded nineteenth-century American cultural consciousness, affecting even elite men's representation of their society.57 Separately and together, these and similar undertakings, specific disagreements notwithstanding, point toward a new synthesis in literary studies.

At its best, this scholarship is teaching us to recognize even the most revered texts as the products of society--covertly, if not openly--as witnesses to its struggles. Thus, as David Reynolds has recently reminded us, even so-called canonical texts betray their deep engagement with the tensions of the world in which they were produced. Elements of popular culture, preoccupationls with economic change, anxieties about social status and class position all figure in texts that may not explicitly acknowledge either their debts or their anxieties.53

Similarly, David Leverenz insists that the "vital relation between classic American writers and history" should be sought "in the broad pressures of class and gender ideologies." But even Leverenz takes pains to distance himself from the (presumably old-fashioned) view that the connection might also be sought in "the specific links between texts and political or cultural contexts"--as if ideologies could be separated from the political and cultural systems within which they develop and which they articulate.59

In general even the most exciting new scholarship has not fully answered the most pressing concerns voiced in the new literary studies of race and gender, particularly the determination to recover the subjective experience of those whom the dominant culture marginalized and silenced. It is as if they were moving from the preoccupation captured in William Andrews's title, To Tell a Free Story, to the preoccupation to "tell my own story," on the conviction that "free" embodies the values of the dominant society and thus distorts the individual's self-perception. But to abandon "free" as the product of collective experience is to abandon the cultural, social, and political context that gives meaning to the individual story. It is to lose precisely what most concerned Langston Hughes and Alice Walker--the possibility of bridging "twoness."

Under the expanding influence of postmodernísm and poststructuralism, the new literary studies of race and gender are increasingly extending the notion of text to cover all social relations. Adopting from literary criticism the idea that language is all of society or "reality" that we can hope to know, they are insisting that we attend to a plurality of voices on equal terms--that we introduce genuine "democracy" into our appreciation of diverse cultures.60 This position embodies a commitment to the equal value of human beings in their particularity and diversity. But in rejecting the notion of a hierarchy of intrinsic worth, it also rejects the attempt to understand the structures of domination and subordination within which cultures are elaborated and articulated.61 The new literary studies of race and gender are thus repudiating the dual focus of text and context that traditionally characterized American Studies. Leverenz's opposition of "ideologies" to "political and cultural contexts" is, in this perspective sobering. For Leverenz admirably prides himself on writing "about something" in contrast to engaging in sterile exercises. He is not, disclaimers notwithstanding, repudiating context, he is renaming it under the pressure of postmodernist and poststructuralist currents.

Significantly, the most compelling results of the new literary studies of race and gender point back, albeit in new terms, toward the older paradigm of American Studies as some combination of history and literature. Yet too often they make the case for the value of the cultures of previously marginalized groups as if those cultures should be understood on their own terms, which in part, is to say in isolation. Too often they appear to be seeking to replace the very idea of an American culture--and especially an American self--with a multiplicity of unrelated cultures and selves. Too often they seem to assume that if it could be demonstrated that our dominant culture has resulted from the privilege and power of some then that culture must be repudiated entirely. These conclusions do not follow from those premises.

The new literary studies of race and gender have, in general, insisted upon the claims of a myriad of subjective experiences and upon the cultural distinctiveness of marginalized or oppressed communities. Yet for all their insistence on community, they have not decisively challenged the commitment to individualism advanced by the dominant culture.67 In effect, these studies are proposing that we study new individuals, not that we study differently the ways in which individuals interact--their conflicts, but also their accommodations, and the ways in which the dominant discourses have obscured those interactions.

The most compelling lesson of this work should be the insistence that our inherited notion of American culture is the product of historical struggles that have been won by some and lost by others.63 Such are the consequences of power. Yet they have, in large measure, repudiated the very notion of power in favor of a radical democratization. If our dominant culture has indeed resulted from the silencing of those who lacked the power, prestige, or connections to ensure that their views would prevail, then it behooves us to understand it as the product of conflict it has been. It also behooves us to understand that the very power which facilitated its triumph endowed it with an undeniable prestige in the eyes of those it excluded, and especially with the power to set the terms of any criticisms of it.

The American self of our tradition has been white and male, normally northeastern although occasionally western, normally elite, although occasionally poor but upwardly mobile. That self has functioned as a collective self-representation, even as it has also functioned as the implicit autobiography of the men of the dominant class and race. Today we no longer accept it as an adequate self-representation. Those of us who are not members of a white, male, northeastern elite need to understand the conditions that have permitted it to prevail. To do so, we must recognize that, in essential respects, it has prevailed. The new literary studies of race and gender scholarship suggest that we should reexamine that national image from the perspective of those whose lives it did not reflect. Perhaps the most sobering lesson of such an examination will be the hegemony enjoyed by that image in which so many did not share. However sobering, that lesson could help to instruct us in the inescapable relations between culture and power and remind us that American identities, like American culture, have always been shaped by the (conflicted) relations of class as well as gender and race.

Race and gender should enjoy privileged positions in our understanding of American culture, for race and gender lie at the core of any sense of self. The incalculable advantage of the dominant culture has been its ability to deny their significance, to define the individual as not black and not female. Yet that very negative betrays the centrality of race and gender to any conception of the American self. American culture has developed as a celebration of freedom and individualism as a repudiation of inequality. The measure of its success--its hegemony--can be seen in its ability to promote the ideal of American exceptionalism, to deny the existence of systematic or structural inequalities. Above all, its success has consisted in its ability to conflate the subjective notion of the self with the objective notion of national identity and thereby to exclude those who do not fit the subjective model from its objective corollary.

Understood as collective rather than strictly personal expression, our culture can permit different individuals to claim it as their own--not necessarily as an expression of their immediate personal experience, but as an affirmation of their national identity. Our culture, like all cultures, has always been subject to change. To recognize its national and inherently political character is to understand that to be an American means something more than to belong to a specific group of Americans. To be an American is forthrightly to acknowledge a collective identity that simultaneously transcends and encompasses our disparate identities and communities. Unless we acknowledge our diversity, we allow the silences of the received tradition to become our own. Unless we sustain some ideal of a common culture, we reduce culture to personal experience and sacrifice the very concept of American.


I The similarity of the response never meant that American identity as embodied in American culture was not subject to contest, but that even as the favored authors shifted from those of the genteel tradition to those of Matthiessen's American Renaissance the chosen continued to belong to the northeastern, WASP tradition. See, for example, Eric Cheyfitz, "Matthiessen's American Renaissance: Circumscribing the Revolution," American Quarterly 41 (1989): 341-61.
2 Gene Wise, " 'Paradigm Dramas' in American Studies: A Cultural and Institutional History of the Movement," American Quarterly 23 (Bibliography Issue 1979): 293-337.

3. See, among many, Patricia Hill Collins, "The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought," Signs 14 (Summer 1989): 745-73, esp. 770, "Living life as an African-American woman is a necessary prerequisite for producing black feminist thought because within black women's communities thought is validated and produced with reference to a particular set of historical, material, and epistemological conditions." See also Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York, 1988), and Jane Flax, "Postmodernism and Gender Relations in Feminist Theory," Signs 12 (Summer 1987): 621 43. For an extended development of my position, see Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Feminism Without Illusions: A Critique of Individualism (Chapel Hill, 1990).
4. For a thoughtful assessment of the general problem, see, esp., William E. Cain, The Crisis in Criticism: Theory, Literature, and Reform in English Studies (Baltimore, 1984), and, for the sharpest formulation of the conservative position, Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York, 1987). For overviews of the status and mission of American Studies, see, e.g., Gene Wise, " 'Paradigm Dramas' "; Michael Cowan, "Boundary as Center: Inventing an American Studies Culture," Prospects 12 (1987): 1-20; Guenter H. Lenz, "American Studies and the Radical Tradition: From the 1930s to the 1960s," Prospects 12 (1987): 20-58; Kay Mussell. " The Social Construcrion of Reality and American Studies: Notes Toward Consensus ," Prospects 9 (1984): 1-16; Thomas J. Schlereth, "American Studies and Students of American Things," American Quarterly 35 (Bibliography 1983): 236 41; Dell Upton, "The Power of Things: Recent Studies in American Vernacular Architecture," American Quarterly 35 (Bibliography 1983): 262-79.
5 William Bennett, "To Reclaim a Legacy," Chronicle of Higher Education, 28 Nov. 1984, and his "Why the West?" National Review 40 (27 May 1988): 37-39; Bloom, Closing of the American Mind and on the Stanford controversy, see Neu York Times, 19 Apr. 1988, A18, and Chronicle of Higher Education. 27 Apr. 1988, A2.
6. Joan Wallach Scott, `'History in Crisis? The Others' Side of the Story," American Historical Review 94 (June 1989): 680-92. Discussions of this confusion between points of view and the professional promotion of those who advance them are proliferating. See, for example, Jonathan M. Wiener, "Radical Historians and the Crisis in American History, 1959-1980," Journal of American History 76 (Sept. 1989): 399434; John D'Emilio, "Not a Simple Matter: Gay History and Gay Historians," Journal of American History 76 (Sept. 1989): 435 42; Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The "Objectivity Question" and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge, 1988).
7. Linda K. Kerber, "Diversity and the Transformation of American Studies," American Quarterly 41 (Sept. 1989): 424.
8. Kerber, "Diversity and the Transformation of American Studies," 429. 9. Many of the most promising exceptions to the tendency are strongly rooted in history, notably, Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 178 1860 (New York, 1986); David Leverenz, Manhood and the American Renaissance (Ithaca, N.Y., 1989); Sacvan Bercovitch, The Puritan Origins of the American Self (New Haven, 1975), and his The American Jeremiad (Madison, Wisc., 1978); Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York, 1985); Werner Sollors, Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture (New York, 1986); Allan Trachtenberg, The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age (New York, 1982).
10. Sollors, Beyond Ethnicity. I do not wish to slight the significance of Sollors's general argument, but am struck at how little attention he gives to Hawthorne, Emerson, Poe, Melville, Whitman, and company. For random examples, Theodore Dreiser Edith Wharton, Harriet Jacobs, Pauline Hopkins, Susan Warner, Fanny Fern (Ruth Hall), Augusta Evans Wilson, and William Gilmore Simms, do not appear in his index. Nor do gender or women.
Il. W. E. Burghardt DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1953; reprint, Millwood, N.Y., 1973), 1.
12. Leslie Fiedler. Love and Death in the American Novel (1960; reprint, New York, 1966), and his The Return of the Vanishing American (New York, 1968).
13. Henry Louis Gates does address the question in his comments on my paper and I am very much indebted to him for forcing me to address it. 14. Henry Roth, Call It Sleep, (New York, 1934).
15. Langston Hughes, "A Theme for English B," in The Langston Hughes Reader: The Selected Writings of Langston Hughes (New York, 1958), 108-109.
16. Hughes, "A Theme for English B," 109.
17. Houston A. Baker, Jr., Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance (Chicago, 1987).
18. The story is included in Alice Walker, You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (New York, 1981) .
19. Albert Camus. L'homme revolte (Paris, 1956), 25. 20. Harriet A. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Written by Herself, ed Jean Fagan Yellin (Cambridge, Mass., 1987); Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household: Black and White Women of the Old South (Chapel Hill, 1988), Epilogue. And many of her black, female successors did the same.
21. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (New York, 1988), xxii.
22. Gates, Signifying Monkey.
23. Zora Neale Hurston, Jonah's Gourd Vine (1934; reprint, Philadelphia, 1971).
24. Among the works in history and culture, see, esp., Eugene D. Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York, 1975); Lawrence Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought From Slavery to Freedom (New York, 1977); Alfred J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South (New York, 1978); Deborah G. White, Ar'n't l a Woman? Female Slaves in the Plantation South (New York, 1985); Norman R. Yetman, "Ex-Slave Interviews and the Historiography of Slavery," American Quarterly 36 (Summer 1984): 181-210; Fox-Genovese. Within the Plantation Household. On slave narratives and African-American autobiographies, see, esp., William Andrews, To Tell a Free Story: The First Century of Afro-American Autobiography, 176(}1865 (Urbana, 111., 1986); William E. Cain, "Forms of Self-Representation in Booker T. Washington's Up From Slavery." Prospects 12 (Cambridge, 1987): 201-22; Charles T. Davis and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., eds., The Slave's Narrative (New York, 1985); Frances Smith Foster, Witnessing Slavery: The Development of Ante-Bellum Slave Narratives (Westport, Conn., 1979); Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, "My Statue, My Self: Autobiographical Writings of Afro-American Women," in Shari Benstock, ed., The Private Self: Theory and Practice of Women's Autobiographical Writings (Chapel Hill, 1988); Waldo E. Martin, Jr., The Mind of Frederick Douglass (Chapel Hill, 1984); John Sekora and Darwin T. Turner, eds., The Art of Slave Narrative: Original Essays in Criticism and Theory (n. p., 1982); Sidonie Smith, Where I'm Bound: Patterns of Slaverv and Freedorm in Black American Autobiography (Westport, Conn., 1974); Robert B. Stepto, From Behind the Veil: A Study of Afro-American Narrative (Urbana, 111., 1979). For recent work in African-American literary criticism, see, esp., Henry Louis Gates. Jr., Figures in Black: Words, Signs, and the "Racial" Self (New York, 1987) and his, Signifying Monkey; Houston A. Baker, Jr., The Journey Back: Issues in Black Literature and Criticism (Chicago, 1980), and his, Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance; Hazel Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro- American Woman Novelist (New York, 1987); Barbara Christian, Black Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers (New York, 1985); Trudier Harris, Exorcising Blackness: Historical and Literary Lynching and Burning Rituals (Bloom- ington, 1984), Gloria T. Hull, Color, Sex, and Poetry: Three Women Writers of the Harlem Renaissance (Bloomington, 1987); Barbara Ann McCaskill, "To Rise Above Race: Black Women Writers and Their Readers, 1859-1939," Ph.D. diss., Emory University, 1988; Marjorie Pryse and Hortense J. Spillers, eds., Conjuring: Black Women, Fiction, and LiterarY Tradition (Bloomington, 1985); Valerie Smith, SelfDiscovery and Authority in Afro-American Narrative (Cambridge, Mass., 1987); Susan Willis, Specifying: Black Women Writing: The American Experience (Madison, 1987); Gloria Wade-Gayles, No Crystal Stair: Visions of Race and Sex in Black Women's Fiction (New York, 1984).
25. Willis, Specifying, 10. 26. From the Revolution on, individual freedom and equality began to emerge as the dominant myth of American culture, but it long coexisted with older visions of the primacy of community and with the southern defense of hierarchy and particularism.
27. For the relevant texts see the wonderful Schomburg Library of NineteenthCentury Black Women Writers, gen. ed., Henry Louis Gates, Jr., 30 vols. (New York, 1988). In some ways the most challenging and disturbing text of all is Harriet Wilson's Our Nig.
28. Reasons of space preclude my doing full--or indeed any--justice to the work on specific ethnic groups, although the work on Hispanic Americans and native Americans in particular justifies serious treatment.
29. Harriet E. Wilson, Our Nig: Or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, ed. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., (New York, 1983); Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. See also. "Texts and Contexts of Harriet Jacobs's Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: Written by Herself," in The Slave's Narrative, ed. Davis and Gates 262-82, and her "Written by Herself: Harriet Jacobs's Slave Narrative," American Literature 53 (Nov. 1981): 479-86.
30. The Schomburg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers Each volume in the library contains an introduction to the specific work by a scholar in the field.
31. Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood, esp 169-73
32. On the difficulties of Our Nig in particular and the tradition of nineteenthcentury African-American women's writing in general, see Barbara McCaskill, "To Rise Above Race."
33. Carby, Reconstructing Womanhood, 174 75.
34. Alexander Saxton, "Problems of Class and Race in the Origins of the Mass Circulation Press," American Quarterly 36 (Summer 1984): 211 -34; Ronald J. Zboray The Transportation Revolution and Antebellum Book Distribution Reconsidered," American Quarterlv 38 (Spring 1986): 53-71, and his ~'Antebellum Reading and the Ironies of Technological Innovation," American Quar;erly 40 (Mar. 1988) 65-110
35. Nina Baym, "Melodramas of Beset Manhood: How Theories of American Fiction Exclude Women Authors," American Qu~arterly 33 (Summer 1981): 123-39.
36. Jane Tompkins, Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction 1790-1860 (New York, 1985). That Hawthome's reputation was largely fabricated does not mean, at least in my judgment, that his work was not as good as advertised That is another question. It is also, in large measure, another question that Hawthornehs work was Ideologically charged. For a discussion of his hostile treatment of Margaret Fuller, see, Bell Gale Chevigny, "To the Edges of Ideology: Margaret Fuller's Centrifugal Evolution ,'` American Quarterly 38 (Summer 1986): 173-201. For an insightful discussion of the reception of Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin in time and place, see Nina Baym, Novels, Readers, and Reviewers: Responses to Fiction in Antebeilurm America (Ithaca, 1984): and, for new readings of the novel, Eric J. Sundquist, ed., Neu Essays on Uncle Tom's Cabin (New York, 1986).
37. On the scribbling women, see Ann Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture (New York, 1977). Most feminist critics have been more sympathetic to antebellum women writers than Douglas. See, e.g. Tompkins` Sensational Designs Baym, Women's Fiction: A Guide to Novels by and about Women in America. 1820- 1870 (Ithaca, 1978); Mary Kelley, Private Woman, Public Stage: Literarv Domesticity in Nineteenth-Century America (New York, 1984).
38. Annette Kolodny, "The Integrity of Memory: Creating a New Literary History of the United States," American Literature 57 (May 1985): 291-307, and her The Land Before Her: Farztasy and Experience of American Frontiers, 1630-1860 (Chapel Hill, 1984); Cathy Davidson, Revolution and the Word: The Rise of the Novel in America (New York, 1986), and her, "Introduction: Towards A History of Books and Readers," to the special issue, "Reading America," that she edited of American Quarterly 40 (Mar. 1988): 7-17; and references to Tompkins and Baym in note 34 supra .
39 Kelley, Private Woman, Public Stage; Kolodny, Land Before Her; Judith Fryer, Fehcltous Space The /maginative Structures of Edith Wharton and Willa Cather.
40. For other examples of this position, see also, Judith Fetterley, "Introduction " to Provisions: A Reader from 19th-Century American Women (Bloomington, 1985; 1 40; Elizabeth A. Meese, Crossing the Double-Cross: The Practice of Feminist Criticism (Chapel Hill, 1986); Vivian R. Pollak, Dickinson: The Anxiety of Gender (Ithaca, 1984); Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill, 1984), Joanne Dobson, "The Hidden Hand: Subversionof Cultural Ideology in Three Mid Nineteenth-Century Women's Novels," American Quarterly 38 (Summer 1986): 233-42; Shirley Samuels, "The Famlly, the State, and the Novel in the Early Republic," American Quarterly 38 (Bibliography 1983): 236
41 For an extreme formulation of the theoretical implications of the tendency toidentify a distinct women's discourse, see ~largaret Homans, Bearing the Word: Language and Female Experience in Nineteenth-Century Women's Wrlting (Chlcago, 1986), esp. 4 15 and 28-29.
42. For a thoughtful discussion of the limits of the northeastern model of woman's sphere see, Jeanne Boydston, Mary Kelley, and Anne Margolis, The Limits of Sisterhood The Beecher Sisters on Women's Rights and Woman's Sphere (Chapel Hill, 1988), and Linda K. Kerber, `'Separate Spheres, Female Worlds, Woman's Place: The Rhetoric of History," Journa/ of American History 75 (June 1988): 9-39.
43. See, e.g., Fox-Genovese, Within the Plantation Household.
44. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin, ed. Ann Douglas (1854; reprint, New York 1981), Caroline Lee Hentz, The Planter's Northern Bride (1854; reprint, Chapel Hiil, 1970). See also, Ann Douglas, The Feminization of Arnerican Culture (New York, 1977); Gillian Brown, "Getting in the Kitchen With Dmah: Domestlc Politics in Uncle Tom's Cabin," American Quarterly 36 (Fall 1984): 503-23; Sundqulst, ed, New Es.~avs.
45 On Wilson, see William Perry Fiddler, Augusta Evans Wilson: A Biography (University, Ala., 195i), and Anne Goodwyn Jones, Tomorrow Is Another Day: The Woman Writer in the South, 1859-1936 (Baton Rouge, 1981).
46. Obviously, Marxists have paid considerable attention to the political rights of blacks and women, but they have normally attempted to incorporate them within thelr established theoretical framework. See, e.g., the pathbreaking work of Herbert Aptheker, esp., American Negro Slave Revolts, 40th anniversary edition (New York, 1983); his "Resistance and Afro-American History: Some Notes on Contemporary Historiography and Suggestions for Further Research," in In Resistance: Stud~es In African, Caribbean, and Afro-American History, ed. Gary Y. Okihiro (Amherst, Mass. 1980) 10-20; and his `'American Negro Slave Revolts: Fifty Years Gone," Science and Society 51 (Spring 1987): 68-72.

47 Michael Denning, ' 'The Special American Conditions': Marxism and American Studies," American Quarterly 38 (Bibliography 1986): 356 80. The distancing has been of a very special kind for, as Michael Denning has argued, much of the most innovative recent work in American Studies is heavily indebted to Marxist thought, even when it offers itself as a substitute for Marxism. In general even those scholars who are working with Marxist concepts have refrained either from calling themselves Marxists or from accepting an integrated Marxist theory.
48. See esp., David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 177(~1823 (Ithaca, 1975). Thus, although references to "hegemony" have become fairly common, and although references to the consciousness of working people abound, they are not normally linked--Davis and a precious few others excepted--to economics and politics.
49. Sollors, Beyond Ethnicity. See also, his "Region, Ethnic Group, and American Writers: From 'Non-Southern' and 'Non-Ethnic' to Ludwig Lewisohn; or the Ethlcs of Wholesome Provincialism," Prospects 9 (1984): 441 62, and, esp., "Theory of American Ethnicity, American Quarterly 33 (Bibliography 1981): 257-83, e.g., the discussion of ethnicity and class on 263 66. Here, Gates' s observations on the relations of African-American writers to the Western and vernacular traditions respectively (in Signifying Monkey) requires development. For a thoughtful treatment of a specific instance in the relations between white and black culture, see, William J. Mahar "Black English in Early Blackface Minstrelsy: A New Interpretation of the Sources of Minstrel Show Dialect," American Quarterly 37 (Summer 1985): 260-85.
50. T. S. Eliot, Christianitv and Culture: The Idea of a Christian Societ~ & N~tes Toward the Definition of Culture (New York, 1960).
51. Michael T. Gilmore, American Romanticism and the Market Place (Chicago 1985); Walter Benn Michaels, The Cold Standard and the Logic of Naturalism: American Literature at the Turn of the Centur~ (Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1987).
52. Bercovitch, Puritan Origins of the American Self.
53. Sacvan Bercovitch and Myra Jehlen, eds., Ideology and Classic American Literature (New York, 1986).
54. Jeffrey Steele, The Representation of the Self in the American Renaissance (Chapel Hill, 1987); Gillian Brown, Domestic Individualism: Nineteer1th-Centurv American Politics of Self (forthcoming, Berkeley and Los Angeles~ 1990).
55. Smith-Rosenberg. Disorderly Conduct.
56. Amy Schrager Lang, Prophetic Woman: Anne Hutchinson and The Problem of Dissent in the Literature of New England (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1987).
57. Browm Domestic Individualism.
58. David S. Reynolds, Beneath the American Renais.sance: The subversivt~ Imagination in the Age of Emerson and Melville (New York~ 1988). See also, e. g., Michaels, Cold Standard; Walter Benn Michaels and Donald E. Pease. eds.. The American Renaissance Reconsidered: Selected Papers from the English Institute, 1982~3 (Baltimore, 1985).
59. Leverenz, Manhood and the American Renaissance, 3.
60. Scott, "History in Crisis?"
61. For a sharp critique of the growing hold of postmodernism, see Bryan D. Palmer, Descent Into Discourse: The Reification of Language and the Writing of Social Historv (Philadelphia, 1989).
62. For a fuller development of this argument, see my Feminism Without Illusions.
63. It should, parenthetically, be noted that what applies to blacks and women also applies to southern culture, which has been shamefully neglected