As Others Read Us
International Perspectives on American Literature
This collection of original essays traces the cultural impact of American literature on and in other societies. Written by authors from fifteen nations, from east to west, north and south, the essays examine not only what is studied, translated, and taught by scholars in each country but also what is read by the general public.
At a time when the traditional American literary canon is undergoing a thorough reevaluation, As Others Read Us provides an important cross-cultural perspective. By examining the role of tradition, government policy, and bureaucracy in determining which texts are read and esteemed, the contributors enrich our understanding of the formation and propagation of alternative literary canons. By analyzing the influence of American literary texts on the values and aspirations of citizens from other countries, the essayists further illuminate the complex relationship between literature and politics.
Though recognizable, the literary landscape that emerges in this book is in many ways astonishingly different from the one with which most Americans are familiar. While Poe, James, Faulkner, and Hemingway, for instance, loom large as major figures on a world stage, so too do Jack London and Charles Bukowski. There are other surprises as well. Who might imagine that Faulkner's South would intrigue Japanese readers, that Israeli students would have a penchant for Puritan and colonial American literature, or that the Chinese would be entranced by the writings of both Nathaniel Hawthorne and Arthur Hailey?
Essay after essay in this unique collection reveals how one culture often finds reflections of itself in the historical niches of another culture's development.
"Too little effort has centered on what we can learn from how American authors are accepted abroad. The world-wide coverage of As Authors Read Us, imaginatively conceived and executed, educates us for living better with ourselves. More crucially, it helps, indeed compels, us to understand better fifteen other cultures, both through their scholars, critics, and publishers and through the readers who insist on making up their own minds and therefore broadening ours."—Louis J. Budd, Duke University