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Multiculturalism. It has been the subject of cover stories in Time and Newsweek, as well as numerous articles in newspapers and magazines around America. It has sparked heated jeremiads by George Will, Dinesh D'Sousa, and Roger Kimball. It moved William F. Buckley to rail against Stanley Fish and Catherine Stimpson on "Firing Line." It is arguably the most hotly debated topic in America today--and justly so. For whether one speaks of tensions between Hasidim and African-Americans in Crown Heights, or violent mass protests against Moscow in ethnic republics such as Armenia, or outright war between Serbs and Bosnians in the former Yugoslavia, it is clear that the clash of cultures is a worldwide problem, deeply felt, passionately expressed, always on the verge of violent explosion. Problems of this magnitude inevitably frame the discussion of "multiculturalism" and "cultural diversity" in the American classroom as well. In Loose Canons, one of America's leading literary and cultural critics, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., offers a broad, illuminating look at this highly contentious issue. Gates agrees that our world is deeply divided by nationalism, racism, and sexism, and argues that the only way to transcend these divisions--to forge a civic culture that respects both differences and similarities--is through education that respects both the diversity and commonalities of human culture. His is a plea for cultural and intercultural understanding. (You can't understand the world, he observes, if you exclude 90 percent of the world's cultural heritage.) We feel his ideas most strongly voiced in the concluding essay in the volume, "Trading on the Margin." Avoiding the stridency of both the Right and the Left, Gates concludes that the society we have made simply won't survive without the values of tolerance, and cultural tolerance comes to nothing without cultural understanding. Henry Louis Gates is one of the most visible and outspoken figures on the academic scene, the subject of a cover story in The New York Times Sunday Magazine and a major profile in The Boston Globe, and a much sought-after commentator. And as one of America's foremost advocates of African-American Studies (he is head of the department at Harvard), he has reflected upon the varied meanings of multiculturalism throughout his professional career, long before it became a national controversy. What we find in these pages, then, is the fruit of years of reflection on culture, racism, and the "American identity," and a deep commitment to broadening the literary and cultural horizons of all Americans.
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African-American writer Richard Wright (1908-1960) was celebrated during the early 1940s for his searing autobiography (Black Boy) and fiction (Native Son). By 1947 he felt so unwelcome in his homeland that he exiled himself and his family in Paris. But his writings changed American culture forever, and today they are mainstays of literature and composition classes. He and his works are also the subjects of numerous critical essays and commentaries by contemporary writers. This volume presents a comprehensive annotated bibliography of those essays, books, and articles from 1983 through 2003. Arranged alphabetically by author within years are some 8,320 entries ranging from unpublished dissertations to book-length studies of African American literature and literary criticism. Also included as an appendix are addenda to the author's earlier bibliography covering the years from 1934 through 1982. This is the exhaustive reference for serious students of Richard Wright and his critics.
That contemporary American politics is divided into two differing ideological, moral, and lifestyle groups - a divide so severe as to constitute a "cultural war" - is a widely-held popular belief. The most systematic academic version of the culture wars claim has appeared in two influential books by sociologist James Davison Hunter, the earlier dating from 1991. Hunter's formulation of the myth serves the contributors to this volume as a point of departure. They add more measured analyses to the rhetorical overstatement in Hunter's claim, assessing its accuracy with a broad range of evidence based on individual attitudes, subcultural values, political party dynamics, and culture-wide ideological currents. On every level of analysis, the contributors find that Hunter's bipolar axis obscures the variety of ways in which culture actually functions in current politics. That variety receives the nuanced treatment it deserves in this collection. Examining the full range of sources of cultural politics and offering competing models for understanding the current ideological landscape, this volume will be useful in a variety of classroom and seminar settings, from political sociology and social movements to contemporary American culture and the sociology of religion.
Even though the majority of Americans hold moderate views on issues such as abortion, homosexual rights, funding for the arts and public broadcasting, and multicultural education, extremists tend to dominate public debate. James Davidson Hunter explained this polarization of American politics and political discourse and popularized the term culture wars in his best-selling book Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. The eleven contributors to The American Culture Wars analyse these and other heatedly contested issues. In addition, they examine new developments in the culture wars. Together the chapters of this book illuminate current cultural conflicts and offer clues as to where the next American culture wars may be waged.
Gregory S. Jay boldly challenges the future of American literary studies. Why pursue the study and teaching of a distinctly American literature? What is the appropriate purpose and scope of such pursuits? Is the notion of a traditional canon of great books out of date? Where does American literature leave off and Mexican or Caribbean or Canadian or postcolonial literature begin? Are today's campus conflicts fueled more by economics or ideology? Jay addresses these questions and others relating to American literary studies to explain why this once arcane academic discipline found itself so often in the news during the culture wars of the 1990s. While asking some skeptical questions about new directions and practices, Jay argues forcefully in favor of opening the borders of American literary and cultural analysis. He relates the struggle for representation in literary theory to a larger cultural clash over the meaning and justice of representation, then shows how this struggle might expand both the contents and the teaching of American literature. In an account of the vexed legacy of the Declaration of Independence, he provides a historical context for the current quarrels over literature and politics. Prominent among these debates are those over multiculturalism, which Jay takes up in an essay on the impasses of identity politics. In closing, he considers how the field of comparative American cultural studies might be constructed.

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