Comparing settler literatures: Reingard M. Nischik (ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Comparative North American Literature, Palgrave, 2014


Abstract: This book develops a particular analytic approach to the literatures and cultures of North America, elaborating upon a transnational and at the same time comparative perspective on these countries,  an approach we may call “Comparative North American Studies” or, when focused largely on literature, as is the case in this handbook, “Comparative North American Literature.” The handbook is meant to chart relevant methodologies and major issues of Comparative North American Literature and to help this approach find its place in the ever-changing constellation of dealing with the United States and Canada and studying them across the disciplines. This recent approach to the study of the United States and Canada is presented at a time when both American Studies and Canadian Studies have been reorienting themselves, opening up in the wake of globalizing tendencies not only in economics, politics, and technology, but also in the context of literature and culture. This process has resulted in a tendency toward “transnational” (i.e., reaching beyond national borders) or sometimes even “postnational” approaches to literature (i.e., contesting the conceptual validity of nation-states in a globalized world), paying tribute to the effects of complex migratory movements as well as to national borders as a colonial overwriting of Indigenous conceptions of what is now designated as “North America.”  Since there are few methodological publications yet on Comparative North American Studies, 3 this introductory chapter will approach the topic by first embedding it into the context of American Studies, Canadian Studies, hemispheric studies, and global studies.

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