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African-American literature is the body of literature ..

The history of the novel in the U.S. during the twentieth century can in many ways be charted in terms of a fundamental, interactive tension between, on the one hand, the idea or sense of the national space and, on the other, local or regional specificities or densities that are in some fashion resistant to this idea. The “national” in this context signifies essentially the rapid and expansive unfolding of capitalist modernity in America following the end of the Civil War in 1865, an era that saw the increasing unification of what had hitherto been a more loosely aggregated national realm. With the full advent of industrialization, along with the widespread implementation of railroads and the telegraph, a genuinely national commercial marketplace was established for the first time. The rhythms of wage labor and commodity production (and consumption) became increasingly the norm, and people, goods, ideas, and images could now circulate more widely and easily than ever before, all of which fostered a manifold set of overlapping and often contradictory perceptions and experiences and offered up a new social substance for literary reflection. Thus, modernity might be welcomed for its social dynamism and cosmopolitanism, or instead criticized for its rootlessness and cultural depthlessness; the local, meanwhile, might either be favored for its traditional values and sense of connectedness (to people, to the land) or shunned for its backwardness and refusal to embrace innovation. This multivalent, ongoing cultural dialectic of nation and region, intertwined with a tension between modernity and tradition, affords a productive framework for considering the course of the twentieth-century American novel.

A Brief Introduction to American Literature Essay Sample

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