American Literature Archive

Home Is a Complicated Thing

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In Jhumpa Lahiri’s stories, immigrants live in a world defined by language, its possibilities, its dead-ends. The legal and political aspects of immigration don’t appear to be the biggest cause of trouble for the characters. Language, however, that first branch of culture, is another matter: characters must continuously code-switch,

Round-Down: First Ever American Writers Museum Slated for 2017

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The United States is getting a new addition. In early 2017, the first museum dedicated to writers from the USA, the American Writers Museum, will open. Its mission will be to celebrate American writers and literature. The idea came from Malcolm O’Hagan, an Irish immigrant and retired engineer who is raising the funds for

Harold Bloom’s Song of Self

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Here’s the story of my first and only encounter with Harold Bloom. It was the first week of a new semester, my last semester of graduate school, and I was waiting in a stuffy seminar room packed with sharply dressed undergraduates. The luckiest students had secured seats around the grand

The Newest Big Thing From Latin America

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Every once in awhile a book comes across my desk that I read and can’t believe hasn’t blown up bigger already. Jennifer Clement’s Prayers for the Stolen is the thing I’m big on right now, a novel about the dangers of being a girl in contemporary Narco Mexico, narrated

The Myth of the Literary Cowboy, Part 5: Cowboy Poetry

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“Isn’t that an oxymoron?” I’ve heard this phrase uttered by a number of people—students, coworkers, friends, academics, random drunk party guests—anytime I mention one of the following: wearing comfortable stilettos, being a vegan Texan, or enjoying cowboy poetry. The juxtaposition of those pairings proves too much for people to

The Myth of the Literary Cowboy, Part 4: Hi-yo Cowboy, Away!

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Back in December, before an afternoon showing of The Hobbit, I got my first glimpse of the trailer for the big budget adaptation of The Lone Ranger. Sitting there enjoying my smuggled in Diet Dr. Pepper was not the first time I’d run across the film—I had read some

The Myth of the Literary Cowboy, Part 3: Golden Years

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When I was an undergrad, I was constantly debating my Comp II nemesis, a film major who would say things like, “Americans didn’t really start making films until the 1970s.” Yes, he was that guy. Once during a film and literature genre discussion, talk turned to Westerns. My nemesis

The Myth of the Literary Cowboy, Part 2: Make Me a Cowboy

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Last time on Myth of the Literary Cowboy, our hero was developed from the English knight as a post-Civil War appeal to nationalism, and my husband discovered I withheld pie a few years ago. While the cowboy is inspired by the knight, however, he is his own man, one

The Myth of the Literary Cowboy, Part 1: Peculiarly American

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Being raised in West Texas, I have experience with cowboys. I’ve taught and been taught by them, worked with them, listened to their poetry, and eaten their food. My cowboys are the real, working men who get their hands dirty, but have never (to my knowledge) been in a