Literary History of America

A New Literary History of America (2009) edited by Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors
I was alerted to the publication of this book from a Phi Beta Kappa article that I saved last year. Wonderful to find it in our Library – brilliant to have this large, dense tome to digest over weeks and weeks. So much so I think this is now a perfect book for Kindle (only it isn’t on it!). There are so many stories to read, such wonderful writing, essays and history from 1507 to 2008. So many vignettes that I never learned about in my history classes, so many new facets of people I admire (Jefferson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Muir, Cummins, Lincoln, Obama) or events that are presented in illuminating light (the Blues, the SF Earthquake, Washington’s farewell address, the Cherokee Nation, the atom bomb).  I will never forget this account of Katrina (New Orleans is lost in the flood). I am haunted by many of the passages – excellent writing.
There are 200 original essays that expound on what it means to be American, made in America, American made, the American story,  in literature, music, film, art, history, science, philosophy, politics, etc. “…a history of America in which literary means not only what is written but also what is voiced, what is expressed, what is invented, in whatever form.”
Harvard published  A New History of French Literature (Hollier) in 1989 and A New History of German Literature (Wellbery) in 2004. It will take me all year to travel through them, but what a journey.


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