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Grant number like: FB-50225-04

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Christopher R. D. Douglas
Furman University (Greenville, SC 29613-0002)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

[Grant products]

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2005 – 6/30/2006

Writing Americans: Realism, Ethnicity, Nationality

Writing Americans aims to explore how ideas of realism functioned in the parallel critical conversations of the African American, Asian American, Native American and Chicano literatures from the 1920s to the 1980s. This book project will examine both the parallel calls to realism emerging from the different critical traditions and the external pressures faced by minority writers, whose predominantly white audiences tended to seek from these authors verisimilitude, authenticity, and cultural accuracy. Writing Americans will interpret the internal and external demands for realism in the context of citizenship law, nationality, and the social sciences' turn from biological "race" to the concept of ethnic "culture." By its interdisciplinary approach to literature, criticism, social science, and law, this project addresses David Palumbo-Liu's call for a "critical multiculturalism" in the context of evolving "American" and "minority" literary canons. In the midst of current calls to abandon the very grounds for ethnic studies, my book will explain how, in tandem with one another, these four literary traditions have used, co-fashioned, and energized the idea of culture as something that alone could give meaning to the details offered up by literary realism. Contemporary ethnic literature and its conversations have inherited (for better or worse) a reading-for-culture dynamic whose origin was the successful, strategic turn to cultural (and not racial) difference initiated by mid-century ethnic writers. I envision Writing Americans as a comprehensive literary-critical history for use by scholars of the four literatures and by teachers and students in courses in multi-ethnic American literatures. This new literary history of multiculturalism is timely, since its comparative approach puts into new perspective the changing aesthetic and political imperatives driving the writing-and the reading-of ethnic minority literatures.