I. On the Genealogy of American Studies

This historical overview section lists books and articles that trace the rise of American Studies (henceforth AS) as a discipline or interdiscipline, in terms of its theoretical concerns and/or its institutional contexts. Recent theory has reminded us that origin stories are powerful determining forces, and thus these (and my) tales of the growth and development of the discipline should be read both for what they say and for what they may leave out, read both for their truths and their partialities.

All citations in this bibliography are arranged chrono-topically, not alphabetically, to give a sense of theoretical developments emerging over time.

Wise, Gene, ed. "Some Voices in and Around American Studies." American Quarterly 31 (1979): 338-406.
As part of a special section of the 1979 bibliographic issue of American Quarterly entitled "The American Studies Movement: A ThirtyYear Retrospective," fourteen scholars reflect on the history, and future of American Studies, including reflections on theory and method from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
---. "'Paradigm Dramas' in American Studies: A Cultural and Institutional History." American Quarterly 31 (1979): 293-337.
Wise traces the rise of American Studies from its mythic origins with Vernon Parrington in mid-west exile and Perry Miller in "darkest Africa" up to the late 1970s. He identifies a series of major "paradigm moments" in the developmentof the field, shaped by an interplay of social change and changes in theory.The essay is stronger on institutional history than on analyzing theoretical tendencies, but is suggestive regarding the latter area as well. His footnotes,especially the first two, provide a guide to further reading on the history of AS over its first two decades.
Susman, Warren. Culture as History. NY: Pantheon, 1984.
A number of Susman's pieces on American intellectual and cultural history illuminate the development of AS, but his essay on "The Culture of the Thirties" is particularly important. While only tangentially treating AS, Susman's observation that the anthropological notion of "culture" became an obsessive concern of Americans during the depression crisis is very suggestive vis-a-vis the rise of the AS movement. But for a critique of Susman's exaggeration of the conservatism of the thirties, see below Michael Denning, "American Culture and Socialist Theory."
Bercovitch, Sacvan, and Myra Jehlen, eds., Ideology and Classic AmericanLiterature. NY: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Contains reassessments of their work by important pioneers of AS theory and method including Henry Nash Smith, Leo Marx, Richard Slotkin, and Alan Trachtenberg, as well as essays by a younger generation of scholars, including Houston Baker, Carolyn Porter, Donald Pease, Michael Gilmore, Jane Tompkins, Jonathan Arac, and Myra Jehlen, that exemplify work in the 1980s that blended feminist, neo-marxist and post-structuralist theories and methods.
Reising, Russell. The Unusable Past: Theory and the Study of American Literature. NY: Methuen, 1986.
Offers a history and critique of major theories of an American literary and cultural tradition, from Perry Miller to Sacvan Bercovitch, including such figures of importance to AS as Leo Marx, F.O. Matthiessen,D.H. Lawrence, and R.W.B. Lewis.
Denning, Michael. "'The Special American Conditions:' Marxism and American Studies." American Quarterly 38 (1986): 356-380.
In the course of arguing against American "exceptionalism" (our alleged lack of class struggle etc.), Denning introduces main currents in neo-marxism and surveys marxian studies of American culture. He argues that AS theory and practice has often been a weak alternative to marxian thought and has suffered from lack of a full encounter with it. Footnotes constitute an important bibliography on marxism and AS.
Cowan, Michael. "Boundary as Center: Inventing an American Studies Culture." Prospects 12 (1987): 1-20.
Cowan's "state of the discipline"address as outgoing ASA president is a seriously playful account of major turning points in AS, treating AS scholars as a culture, and pointing out some of the contradictions of being an established anti-disciplinary, anti-establishmentarian discipline.
Kerber, Linda. "Diversity and the Transformation of American Studies." American Quarterly 41 (1989): 415-431.
President's address to the ASA (Miami, 1988), this piece is a lively, nuanced defense of diversity in America and in AS. Told via a narrative about the changes in AS scholarship Kerber has noted during her lifetime, this speech is aimed at countering conservative calls during the Reagan era for what she sees as a narrowly monocultural and largely uncritical vision of our past and future. It is also aimed at putting questions of power, which Kerber sees as deflected by more abstract discussions of cultural "difference," at the center of AS scholarship and debate.
Davis, Allen F. "The Politics of America Studies." American Quarterly 42 (1990):353-374.
Presidential address to the ASA (Toronto, 1989) that uses a story about a struggle for power within the ASA during the late 1960s and early 70s (between radicals and more traditionalist forces) to characterize the complex relations among the ASA as organization, the interdiscipline as a whole, and the wider forces of change and constancy in the society.
Gunn, Giles. "American Studies as Cultural Criticism." The Culture of Criticism and the Criticism of Culture. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1987.
A thoughtful, brief history of AS that attempts to show the polemical nature of the myth and symbol school, and how recent work by Clifford Geertz, Alan Trachtenberg and others has extended and clarified without really superseding the work of the myth and symbol school.
Berkhofer, Robert F. "A New Context for a New American Studies?"American Quarterly 41 (1989) 588-613.
A sophisticated survey of how recent developments in social and intellectual history, and literary and cultural theory, are reshaping AS, with special reference to how relations between "texts"and "contexts" are constructed by various theoretical postures.
Lipsitz, George. "Listening to Learn, Learning to Listen: Popular Culture,Cultural Theory, and American Studies." American Quarterly 42 (1990): 615-636.
A brilliantly lucid introduction to the key tools poststructuralist cultural theory has to offer AS; sorts the useful from the merely pretentious among post-structuralists, neo-marxists, semioticians, etc. and relates their work to developments in scholarship about popular culture in the US.
Porter, Carolyn. "'What We Know that We Don't Know:' Remapping American Literary Studies." American Literary History 6.3 (1994):467-526.
While focused on the construction of the "field imaginary" of "American literature," this essay proved influential on those seeking an AS that displaces exceptionalism and re-places the US in larger transnational flow of cultural exchanges.
Lauter, Paul. "'Versions of Nashville, Visions of American Studies:' Presidential Address to the ASA. October 27, 1994." American Quarterly 47.2 (June 1995): 185-203.
ASA President Lauter uses Nashville, with its range of resonances moving from the conservative Southern agrarian literary critics to Civil Rights workers of the Nashville movement, as the backdrop for a plea for a more publicly engaged version of AS, one deeply involved in political struggle at all levels.
Kaplan, Amy. "'Left Alone with America:' The Absence of Empire in the Study of American Culture." Cultures of United States Imperialism. Eds. by Kaplan and Donald Pease. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1993.
Beginning with a re-reading of Perry Miller's errand into the heart of darkness, Kaplan succinctly and brilliantly lays out the ways in which American culture studies have avoided the fact of the United States empire. She demonstrates how that evasion has impoverished our understanding of not only US imperialism but also of the interacting force of empire on our domestic cultural productions.
Desmond, Jane, and Virginia Domínquez. "Resituating American Studies in a Critical Internationalism." American Quarterly 48 (September 1996):475-90.
Strong, lucid argument for a rethinking of AS institutionally and intellectually in relation to other "area studies" in order to better locate the field in the larger terrain of a self-critical trans- and inter-nationalism that undercuts American exceptionalism. Proved prophetic of the turn toward increased "internationalism" in AS.
Janice Radway, "What's in a Name?" Presidential Address to the American Studies Association, 20 November, 1998.
Radway raises key questions about the history and future of the interdiscipline by focusing on the name 'American Studies' itself, and by exploring alternative names that highlight current crises/opportunities to expand and redirect AS-type work in ways that more fully acknowledge the problems of American exceptionalism and imperialism.
Denning, Michael. "American Culture and Socialist Theory." Michael Denning. The Cultural Front. London: Verso, 1996: 423-62.
Locates part of the origins of AS in the cultural struggle of the Popular Front social movement of the 30s and 40s, and rethinks American cultural studies in light of a radical revision of this "age of the CIO."
Maddox, Lucy, ed. Locating American Studies: The Evolution of a Discipline. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins, 1999.
Collects many of the key essays cited above, with retrospective commentaries by AS scholars. Also includes some important pieces not referenced here.
Pease, Donald and Robyn Wiegman, eds. The Futures of American Studies. Durham: Duke UP, 2002.
Excellent collection of essays inspired by the (continuing) series of conferences of the same name. Arranged into four innovative categories -- Posthegemonic, Comparativist, Differential, and Counterhegemonic -- the pieces constitute an extraordinarily rich set of interacting reflections on the pasts, and futures of AS.
DeLoria, Phil. Broadway and Main: Crossroads, Ghost Roads, and Paths to an American Studies Future. American Quarterly 61.1 (March 2009): 1-25.
ASA presidential address that argues for American studies as a method and site of intellectual interaction, rather than a "field" per se. Also focuses on the institutional aspects of AS often neglected, and Includes a reflection on the historic tensions between Native studies and AS as a way to explore the hidden limits/assumptions of the interdiscipline.
Rowe, John Carlos. Cultural Politics of the New American Studies Open Humanities Press, 2012.
Online version of Rowe's cogent reexamination of the public intellectual in light of neo-liberal incorporation of much academic thought in support of a new American Exceptionalism.