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What is American Literature?

Ilan Stavans

10 February 2022

ISBN: 9780198816218

224 pages

In Stock

Price: £19.99

An engaging, thought-provoking, and polemical volume on what makes American literature what it is today.



An engaging, thought-provoking, and polemical volume on what makes American literature what it is today.

  • Literary criticism at its most razor-sharp
  • Offers a new interpretation of American literature that is urgent, controversial, and unapologetic
  • Polemicizes in the context of the current xenophobic climate worldwide

About the Author(s)

Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring, Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture and Five College Fortieth Anniversary Professor, Amherst College

Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College, the publisher of Restless Books, and the host of the NPR podcast "In Contrast". The recipient of numerous international awards, his work, adapted into film, theatre, TV, and radio, has been translated into twenty languages. He is the author of, among other titles, On Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language (Viking), Spanglish (Harper), Gabriel García Márquez: The Early Years (Palgrave), Quixote: The Novel and the World (Norton), and The Seventh Heaven: Travels through Jewish Latin America (Pitts). He is the editor of The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories (OUP), The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry (FSG), The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (Norton), Becoming Americans: Four Centuries of Immigrant Writing (Library of America), and How Yiddish Changes America and How America Changed Yiddish (Restless).

Table of Contents

    Preface: American Carnage
    1:The Ambition of Origins
    2:Hucks R' Us
    3:Language and Authority
    4:Surviving Democracy
    Epilogue: The Second American Civil War: A Reckoning


"It constitutes a rich sample of texts and genres that can inspire whoever reads it to pull the thread and delve into the themes that Stavans points out." - Teresa Requena Pelegrí, Escola de Llibreria

"At its core [What is American Literature?] is a compelling thought about the tension between protest and assimilation: the way American literature simultaneously propels change, and manufactures consent..." - Alicia Rix, Times Literary Supplement

"Stavans brings all his passion and experiences as a prolific and versatile writer, commentator, publisher, anthologist, and academic to bear on this heady reconsideration of American literature... [a] speedy, veering, catch-all book of pronouncements and provocations, upended assumptions and unexpected associations..." - Donna Seaman, Booklist