Accented America: The Cultural Politics of Multilingual Modernism

Paperback | May 5, 2011

byJoshua L. Miller

not yet rated|write a review
Accented America is a sweeping study of U.S. literature between 1890-1950 that reveals a long history of English-Only nationalism: the political claim that U.S. citizens must speak a nationally distinctive form of English. This perspective presents U.S. literary works written between the1890s and 1940s as playfully, painfully, and ambivalently engaged with language politics, thereby rewiring both narrative form and national identity. The United States has always been a densely polyglot nation, but efforts to prove the existence of a nationally specific form of English turn out to be a development of particular importance to interwar modernism. If the concept of a singular, coherent, and autonomous 'American language' seemedmerely provocative or ironic in 1919 when H.L. Mencken emblazoned the phrase on his philological study, within a short period of time it would come to seem simultaneously obvious and impossible. Considering the continuing presence of fierce public debates over U.S. English and domesticmultilingualisms demonstrates the symbolic and material implications of such debates in naturalization and citizenship law, presidential rhetoric, academic language studies, and the artistic renderings of novelists.Against the backdrop of the period's massive demographic changes, Accented America brings a broadly multi-ethnic set of writers into conversation, including Gertrude Stein, Jean Toomer, Henry Roth, Nella Larsen, John Dos Passos, Lionel Trilling, Americo Paredes, and Carlos Bulosan. These authorsshared an acute sense of linguistic standardization during the interwar era and contend with the defamiliarizing sway of radical experimentation with invented and improper literary vernaculars. Mixing languages, these authors spurn expectations for phonological exactitude to develop multilingualliterary aesthetics. Rather than confirming the powerfully seductive subtext of monolingualism-that those who speak alike are ethically and politically likeminded-multilingual modernists composed interwar novels that were characteristically American because, not in spite, of their syntheticsyntaxes and enduring strangeness.

Pricing and Purchase Info

$31.95

Ships within 1-3 weeks
Ships free on orders over $25

From the Publisher

Accented America is a sweeping study of U.S. literature between 1890-1950 that reveals a long history of English-Only nationalism: the political claim that U.S. citizens must speak a nationally distinctive form of English. This perspective presents U.S. literary works written between the1890s and 1940s as playfully, painfully, and amb...

Joshua L. Miller is Associate Professor of English at the University of Michigan where he teaches courses in twentieth-century U.S. literature and visual culture. He has written broadly on language politics, transnational modernism, and photography. He is currently at work on a book on twentieth-century photo-text collaborations and...
Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:May 5, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:019533700X

ISBN - 13:9780195337006

Look for similar items by category:

Customer Reviews of Accented America: The Cultural Politics of Multilingual Modernism

Reviews

Extra Content

Table of Contents

Series Editors' ForewordIntroduction: "every kind of mixing"1. Reinventing vox AmericanaLanguage, Hygiene, and National SecurityMencken and the Cultural Work of Polemical PhilologyContemporary "American" as Standard Vernacular2. Documenting "American""A Standardization Not Imposed But Voluntarily Accepted"3. Foreignizing "english"The Making of Americans' Speech: Stein's Aural "english"Multilingual Fusion and the Limits of Cosmopolitan Expression: Dos Passos's U.S.A.Locutions of Dislocation and the Political Uses of Despair4. Vernacularizing Silence"Flesh of their Language""Been Shapin Words T Fit M Soul": Toomer's Cane5. Translating "Englitch""Kent'cha Tuck Englitch?": Linguistic Dissonance in Call It Sleep"The Purpose of Jewish Life is Cultural, is it not?": The Politics of Trilling's StyleThe Return of the Depressed6. Spanglicizing ModernismU.S. Empire and Imposed Syntax"Born a Foreigner in his Native Land": Paredes and Binational Speech"Citizenship, then, is the basis of all this misunderstanding?": Bulosan's AmericaIdioms of AnnexationConclusion: "say something american if you dare"