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The Global Remapping of American Literature$
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Paul Giles

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691136134

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691136134.001.0001

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The Arcs of Modernism: Geography as Allegory

The Arcs of Modernism: Geography as Allegory

(p.111) Chapter 3 The Arcs of Modernism: Geography as Allegory
The Global Remapping of American Literature

Paul Giles

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how the lineaments of U.S. national identity were shaped and consolidated by three wars over a span of eighty years: the American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. It explains how American writers during these years sought to accommodate the heterogeneous nature of national space within an allegorical circumference where the geography of the nation would embody its redemptive spirit. The chapter first considers the establishment of social boundaries in William Dean Howells's novel A Hazard of New Fortunes and its effort to redescribe regionalism as a nationalist phenomenon. It then explores the concerted attempt to restore the “multilingual” dimensions of American literature and the nationalistic approach adopted by some writers that incorporates geography as a mode of allegory. It also analyzes the fiction of Wallace Stevens and Gertrude Stein, the latter of whom used the airplane as an emblem of modernism.

Keywords:   U.S. national identity, American Civil War, geography, William Dean Howells, social boundaries, American literature, allegory, Wallace Stevens, Gertrude Stein, modernism

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