New World Studies and the Limits of National Literatures

  • Roland Greene


For more than a decade, I have taught a course entitled New World Poetics, in which the readings include a number of early modern European texts about the Americas, contemporaneous writings representing influential discourses of the same moment that often intersect with representations of the new world (e.g., Petrarch, More, Machiavelli), and an array of modern and postmodern responses—from Brazil, Mexico, Peru, and the United States—to European definitions of American reality. The course presents itself as an investigation into how American cultures are realized through the intersections of events, writings, and large-scale systems of thought, and assembles its own comparative account of ideologies such as utopianism, genres such as the love lyric, and works such as The Tempest. It would be possible to approach this material in a number of different ways, but I have deliberately treated it in view of the negotiations between worldviews rather than authors, discrete texts, or national traditions. In practice this means that the course entails some of the attention to local reading that figures in most literary study, but avoids the familiar trajectory of purpose toward conclusions about authors and their works. Instead, the emphasis typically falls on discursive currents that move through several texts and traditions, on the inflection of one standpoint by another, and on transhistorical dialogues over formative new world issues carried out across differences of race, language, institution, and nation.


Early Modern Period World Study Colonial Discourse Postcolonial Study Renaissance Study 
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© Joan Retallack and Juliana Spahr 2006

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  • Roland Greene

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