Multiculturalism in American Literature Traditionally, American Literature Essay

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Multiculturalism in American Literature

Traditionally, American literature as it is taught in schools, has been comprised of texts composed by white, male, protestant authors who have been accepted into the Western canon. As such, "American" literature has left out huge swaths of the literary tradition of America, simply by failing to qualify it as American literature. However, this has begun to change, as the works of other American cultures begin to gain prominence, and be regarded with the same serious study that has been given to elements of the traditional canon. The concept of an overarching American culture had effectively whitewashed away other forms and styles of literature, composed by incredibly distinct subcultures (Jay 49). However, the study of American literature is now progressing toward a more inclusive, expansive means of embracing is multicultural heritage.

America is composed of a variety of groups, many with their own clear cultures and literary traditions, some present before America as a modern country was established, others arising as a fusion between "America" and transplanted cultures (Jay 50). For example, Native American literature existed before America itself did, while African-American literature is the product of cultural fusion. These two cultural traditions are part of "American Literature" yet in many cases would be split into their own fields of study (Jay 50). Other hyphenated identities, including Asian-American and Mexican-American all have created rich bodies of work within the context of American literature, albeit America as experienced from the eyes of someone of a non-white racial background. This does not make the literature any less American, it simply offers a changed perspective, and thus has as canon text to be included in the study of American literature.

This expansion of multiculturalism expands those that find texts accessible. According to Jay, the use of an exclusively Western canon creates reading lists loaded with expectations…

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Works Cited

Jay, Gregory. "The End of "American" Literature: Toward a Multicultural

Practice." College English. 53.3 (1991): 45-62. Print.

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