Repositioning America as an Atlantic and Pacific Nation
- Amy Lee (University of California, Berkeley), Marguerite Nguyen (Wesleyan University), Kelvin Black (Hunter College, CUNY )
“The United States,” says Bruce Cumings, “is the only great power with long Atlantic and Pacific coasts, making it simultaneously an Atlantic and a Pacific nation.” Yet, theorizations of transnational America conventionally focus on one or the other, not both. This seminar explores the challenge of situating America bicoastally as a problem of epistemology that engaging with American literary and philosophical histories can illuminate. We posit alongside Carolyn Porter that what vexes the American subject’s ability to position itself in history and geography is an Emersonian literary tradition of ahistorical and reified consciousness.
This seminar foregrounds literature of the American Pacific and Atlantic to examine and compare key concepts and rubrics governing knowledge production (e.g. diaspora, modernism, revolution, unfree labor, etc.). How have disciplinary organizations of knowledge led to a divergence between transpacific and transatlantic literary studies? How might a conversation between these fields lead to alternative epistemologies and literary paradigms that can further existing critiques of American exceptionalist thought? In addition to revisiting established frameworks that provide fruitful nodes of comparison and discourse between transpacific and transatlantic concerns, we hope to generate discussions on new trajectories for future research.
Paper topics may include:
- the State and knowledge production
- notions of American and Pacific time
- oceanic, transnational, peripheral spaces
- literary engagements with history
- literary movements
- archives, methodology, and epistemology
- the political stakes of knowledge production
- the circulation of key concepts such as diaspora
- capital and history
SEMINAR KEYWORDS: transatlantic literature, transpacific literature, epistemology, philosophy of thought, knowledge production, diaspora, modernism, slavery, exceptionalism, comparison