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Literature America Power: The Professionalization of American Literature

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In the discipline of American Literature (and perhaps to a lesser degree in the humanities in general) the last few decades have seen an ever more strongly developed feedback relation between definitions of professionalism and the discourses of the discipline(s). Terms such as creative destruction embody a naturalizing view of cultural processes that validates the position of the professional in society and generates sets of uncritically affirmative ways of reading literary (and other) texts. In so far as both the central terms and the view of culture are axiomatically associated with a hegemonic view of America that in its turn centralizes the notion of pre-emption of dissent, literature, the academy, and the critic, in this perspective, have to give up all pretensions to any type of adversarialism. A reorientation in terms of an adversarial definition of the intellectual might open up new horizons and incidentally realign the two central terms in late twentieth-century criticism: politics and aesthetics. It might also reverse the Americanization of the globalized academy.

Keywords: adversarialism; creative destruction; hegemony; professionalization; sociology of knowledge

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Dept. of English, University of Basel.

Publication date: November 1, 2002

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  • The European Journal of American Culture (EJAC) is an academic, refereed journal for scholars, academics and students from many disciplines with a common involvement in the interdisciplinary study of America and American culture, drawing on a variety of approaches and encompassing the whole evolution of the country.
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