PAUL GILES, Antipodean America: Australasia and the Constitution of U.S. Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 575 pp.
May10

PAUL GILES, Antipodean America: Australasia and the Constitution of U.S. Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 575 pp.

PAUL GILES, Antipodean America: Australasia and the Constitution of U.S. Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 575 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3   In this impressive study of the pervasive yet often neglected literary and cultural relationships between the United States and Australasia, Paul Giles takes readers on a tour beginning with Benjamin Franklin’s satires and ending with J. M. Coetzee’s novels. Consisting of ten roughly chronologically ordered chapters, this book submits American literary history to a ‘topsy-turvy’ rereading by looking through an antipodean lens. This results in a reconfiguration of familiar themes and tropes, key texts, literary and cultural movements as well as the works of individual authors. Enlightenment, manifest destiny, modernism, globalization, surrealism, and postmodernism are among the subjects that Giles scrutinizes with regard to their Australasian investments and their potential to unsettle the notion of American exceptionalism. Choosing a “transcontinental comparative perspective,” Giles, whose previous monographs have been important contributions to a transatlantic and global remapping of American literary history, aims to “realign the emergence of US culture within an Australasian orbit” in order to show how such an approach “could serve to destabilize assumptions of national identity and, hence, to problematize American projections of utopian values onto the variegated nature of the Pacific scene” (Giles 13). Thus, his book teems with re-interpretations of canonical texts by British, US-American, Australian or ‘hybrid’ writers, but also returns to the works of less well-known authors in an attempt to show that “Australasia has profoundly, if indirectly, helped to shape the direction of American literature” (3). As the story he recounts in his book unfolds, Australasia emerges as an “imaginative space” (4), whose presence manifests itself in literary texts belonging to different genres and periods through “figures of hemispheric reversal” (4). In chapter two, following the introduction, Giles searches works by Benjamin Franklin, J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur and John Ledyard for stirrings of a planetary consciousness, as well as instances of geographical and perspectival inversions, all of which are meant to reflect a de-centering of America or, more generally, forms of “geographical reorientation” (79). Chapter three looks even more closely at geographical and astronomical images and themes in the works of Philip Freneau, Richard Alsop, Joel Barlow, and Charles Brockden Brown. Barlow’s epic poem The Columbiad (1807) serves as an important example of America’s positioning within a global context—written at a time that is usually perceived as the peak of nationalist sentiment. Rather than merely reiterating the rules of neo-classical style, The Columbiad uses a “style of bouleversement” (93; emphasis in the original) that is—it will become clearer throughout the study—symptomatic of the interest that American writers...

Read More
ALFRED HORNUNG and MARTINA KOHL, eds., Arab American Literature and Culture (Heidelberg: Winter, 2012), 299 pp.
May10

ALFRED HORNUNG and MARTINA KOHL, eds., Arab American Literature and Culture (Heidelberg: Winter, 2012), 299 pp.

ALFRED HORNUNG and MARTINA KOHL, eds., Arab American Literature and Culture (Heidelberg: Winter, 2012), 299 pp. Amerikastudien/ American Studies 60.2/3     The tragic attacks of 9/11 have reshaped global and local relationships and have directly affected Arab communities scattered throughout the United States, resulting in two new opposite phenomena:  the growing senses of venom, hatred, and revenge inflicted on Arab American communities, and these communities’ responses to new waves of ‘Islamophobia.’ These phenomena find apt argument and elaboration in the articles included in Arab American Literature and Culture, edited by Alfred Hornung and Martina Kohl, which is one of a number of books written in response to problematic matters involving Arab and Muslim communities both in the United States and in Europe. Hornung and Kohl examine “the situation of Arab descent worldwide” that has been influenced greatly by politics in the United States following the September 11 attacks (1). Ghada Quaisia Audi’s text, “Challenges Facing the Arab American Community from a Legal Perspective,” demonstrates that while the United States Constitution maintains “the basic rights” of any American citizen—which includes Arab Americans—these basic rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution are being denied to Americans of Arab descent. “Within hours of the terrorist attacks of September 11,” Audi explains, “Americans of Middle Eastern and South Asian descent were targeted for acts of hate, violence, discrimination, racial profiling, and economic ruin as a direct result of the highlighted negative generalized media and government scrutiny of Arabs” (9). Ostracism from the American community—a de-Americanization process—has cast Arab Americans as “‘perpetual foreigners,’ deemed as being loyal to their country of origin, rather than to America, and hence disloyal and subversive” (9). This process of ‘de-Americanization’ causes a sense of the spiritual exile that is felt by many Arab Americans, creating a complicated relationship between Americans of Arab descent and other Americans. Audi argues that even though the first amendment “guarantees the right of freedom of expression for everyone” (7), Islamic symbols such as the mosque are perceived as anti-American. The continuing “headscarf/hijab debate” is another example of how Islamic customs are unwelcome in the United States (17). Audi not only points out these difficulties in her text, she offers a simple solution: citizens of the United States must be reminded that Arab Americans are Americans; they are an integral, essential part of the American community.  As Americans they are guaranteed the same rights and freedom of expression—especially religious expression—as any other American and cannot be deported or isolated. Regarding Arab Americans’ patriotic virtue, George W. Bush has stated that “there are thousands of Arab Americans that live in New York City who...

Read More