North America: An Introduction

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Five maps provide visual reference to such phenomena as population densities, pre-Columbian civilizations, physical features, and military conflict. A comprehensive bibliography includes general works, monographs, reference matter, and web resources. North America : An Introduction. Michael M. Brescia , John C. Contours of the Past.


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Regions and Resources. Politics and Power. Continental Diplomacy. This is true for the political and economic debates about the permeability of the Mexican-U. In both the United States and Canada, the region has frequently been understood as a counterpart to the nation.

In Canada, then, the idea of the region has long been associated with identity and, more specifically, with literary and cultural identity. North American Studies have the obvious advantage of entailing comparisons between the much more homogenized United States and the more regionalized Canada. The political culture of the United States, despite phases of sectionalism…has always been kept together by a strong homogenizing patriotic myth. Yet regionalism cannot be confined to a given national space. If previous regionalist studies have tended to reduce North American regionalism not only to a binary nation-region dichotomy but also to a binary U.

In other words, what is necessary is a transnational perspective on North American regionalism, one that goes beyond the nation-region binary and allows us to take into consideration a variety of factors, both real and imaginary, in the construction of regions. Therefore, we would like to redress the reductionist view of North American regionalism as a counter to national power in favor of more heterogeneous and, we believe, more productive approaches to the nation-region relationship in North American literature and culture.

There have been a number of recent attempts to construct literary and cultural cross-border regions, not only but particularly in North America. In addition, gender and ethnicity studies, ecocriticism, comparative perspectives, and media studies have had an impact on the development of regionalisms. These methodologies point the way towards significant re-examinations of both regional writing and the critical category of the region in North America.

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With this special issue, we seek to contribute to this development and to develop new ways of thinking about regionalism and regional writing in Canada, Mexico, and the United States. Before we approach the essays of this issue, however, it is worth asking a key question: what exactly is a region?

Today, a variety of approaches to regionalism co-exist, but there is no single model or concept that critics agree upon. Traditionally, regions have been understood as geographical spaces that are characterized by a certain climate or by distinct topographical features. Examples for this model of regionalism would be the Prairies or the Great Lakes region, but also the Rocky Mountains or the Pacific Rim, all of which are unified by some topographical feature s.

Despite its seeming obviousness, however, formal regionalism has been criticized because it largely leaves the human factor out of consideration.

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This is even true for formal approaches to literary regions, which have commonly seen landscape or topography as the defining feature of a given literary tradition. Needless to say, such an approach reduces not only the region to its geographical features; it also reduces literature to a register of place. This means, for instance, that demographic factors—e. Anyone familiar with U.

Yet, while this formal approach to regionalism has the advantage of concentrating on humans instead of geographies, there is a danger of generalizing about the inhabitants of a location and, in so doing, devaluating their diversity. The example of voting habits serves as a good example: only because a majority of Californians traditionally votes for the Democratic Party, this does not mean that there are no Republicans living in the state. Thus, to group California as a Democratic state means to oversimplify its political structure and, hence, its internal diversity.


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Here, the focus is also on the people, but not so much on their functional, i. Part of this approach is to look at the literature and culture of the people and to try to make out how creative productions have helped shape a region. The important point about this approach is that it assumes a reciprocal interaction between the cultural works and the region. Thus, if the images of Emily Carr are said to have been constructed upon the region of the Pacific Northwest and the people living there, then it could be equally said that the images have, in turn, helped construct the region and its people by means of their cultural impact on an international audience.

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Indeed, this is the question that has been frequently asked ever since the rise of postmodern and poststructuralist theories in the second half of the twentieth century. Is it still possible to conceptualize regions at a time when all unity or, indeed, identity is questioned for its alleged essentialism? Following this line of thought, one would have to reconsider the idea of regions and regionalist studies as a whole, just as one would have to reconsider any theoretical approach that seeks to find commonalities or points of comparison in literary and cultural studies in order to understand larger relations between people and places.

Transnational regionalism reads, and re-reads, regional texts from new perspectives while also adding new, previously marginalized texts to the debate. Thus, it enriches and diversifies the imaginary reservoir of a given region, destabilizing and deterritorializing received myths about and unified concepts of North American regions without necessarily doing away with the concept of region as such. Considering recent developments in the field of regionalist studies and North American studies, we are convinced that transnational regionalism constitutes a useful tool in the study of North American literature and culture in the post-postmodern era.

For this reason, this special issue offers a variety of transnational and border-crossing perspectives on North American regionalism and embraces different theoretical approaches, all of which contribute to the study of regions without trying to reduce them to a single essence. In fact, it might be more appropriate to speak about North American regionalisms rather than regionalism because this special issue features a multiplicity of methodologies and a diversity of regionalist concepts that enrich rather than replace each other.

Two more contributions focus on borderlands: Steven M. Special thanks go to Lisa Schmidt, student assistant at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, for reliably supporting the editors during the copyediting process. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, Baker Jr, Houston A. Bone, Martyn. Campbell, Neil.

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The Cultures of the American New West. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, Post-Westerns: Cinema, Region, West. Comer, Krista. Charles L. Malden, MA: Blackwell, Crow, Charles L.

Introduction of soybean to North America by Samuel Bowen in 1765

A Companion to the Regional Literatures of America. Doyle, James. Lorraine McMullen. Ottawa: U of Ottawa P, Freitag, Florian. Reingard M. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, Concepts of Regionalism.


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