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Through Other Continents:
American Literature across Deep Time
Wai Chee Dimock

Honorable Mention for the 2007 Harry Levin Prize, American Comparative Literature Association
Honorable Mention for the James Russell Lowell Prize

Paperback | 2008 | $35.00 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691114507
264 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 12 halftones.
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What we call American literature is quite often a shorthand, a simplified name for an extended tangle of relations." This is the argument of Through Other Continents, Wai Chee Dimock's sustained effort to read American literature as a subset of world literature.

Inspired by an unorthodox archive--ranging from epic traditions in Akkadian and Sanskrit to folk art, paintings by Veronese and Tiepolo, and the music of the Grateful Dead--Dimock constructs a long history of the world, a history she calls "deep time." The civilizations of Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, China, and West Africa, as well as Europe, leave their mark on American literature, which looks dramatically different when it is removed from a strictly national or English-language context. Key authors such as Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, Ezra Pound, Robert Lowell, Gary Snyder, Leslie Silko, Gloria Naylor, and Gerald Vizenor are transformed in this light. Emerson emerges as a translator of Islamic culture; Henry James's novels become long-distance kin to Gilgamesh; and Black English loses its ungrammaticalness when reclassified as a creole tongue, meshing the input from Africa, Europe, and the Americas.

Throughout, Dimock contends that American literature is answerable not to the nation-state, but to the human species as a whole, and that it looks dramatically different when removed from a strictly national or English-language context.


"Offering new ways of reading, analyzing, and critiquing literature, Dimock's book will be invaluable to scholars of American literature, literary theory, comparative literature, and cultural studies."--Choice

"Across Other Continents is a brave attempt at reading outside the box. Dimock's archive is idiosyncratic and her reading practice, as befits her thesis, rhizomatic. She roams broadly over fields of philosophy, science, ethics, anthropology, art history, philology, and religious history to create links between far-flung elements. Occasionally the tendrils that link disparate texts are gossamer thin, while others are startlingly resilient."--Michael Davidson, Novel

"Wai Chee Dimock's provocative and original new book should serve as a methodological manifesto for the burgeoning field of transnational American literary studies."--Mark Pedretti, Emerson Society Papers

"[S]tartlingly original and compelling studies of a diverse array of authors . . . . [A] groundbreaking book . . . Dimock's sheer knack for linking abstract theoretical issues with concrete historical illustrations . . . is on impressive display throughout."--Robert Kern, Modern Philology


"In Through Other Continents Wai Chee Dimock has created a provocative and altogether compelling vision of American literature as a global phenomenon. At once a set of wide-ranging illustrations and a map for the future, her study will permanently alter the boundaries, and therefore the national implications, of American literary scholarship."--Eric J. Sundquist, UCLA

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Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xi
Planet as Duration and Extension 1
Chapter One: Global Civil Society: Thoreau on Three Continents 7
Chapter Two: World Religions: Emerson, Hafiz, Christianity, Islam 23
Chapter Three: The Planetary Dead: Margaret Fuller, Ancient Egypt, Italian Revolution 52
Chapter Four: Genre as World System: Epic, Novel, Henry James 73
Chapter Five: Transnational Beauty: Aesthetics and Treason, Kant and Pound 107
Chapter Six: Nonstandard Time: Robert Lowell, Latin Translations, Vietnam War 123
Chapter Seven: African, Caribbean, American: Black English as Creole Tongue 142
Chapter Eight: Ecology across the Pacific: Coyote in Sanskrit, Monkey in Chinese 166
Notes 197
Index 237

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