By Winfried Siemerling
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Additional resources for Cultural difference & the literary text: pluralism & the limits of authenticity in North American literatures
This collection of essays is intended to investigate this range of differing approaches as they appear in literary texts and criticism. Some positions view texts in terms of group affiliations that allow for the building or maintenance of previously denied or jeopardized identities. By contrast, others emphasize the constructedness of cultural categories, thereby questioning the validity of defined boundaries and essentialist identities. We do not think that any of the contributors to this volume, including the editors, pretends to have solved those complex and contradictory questions.
Specifically, the figure of Joe Christmas discloses the fictional and constricting character of "natural" identities, displaces binary distinctions of marginal versus central, and multiplies them through parodic repetition. Wachholz's emphasis on the impact of certain categories of identity as psychologically constricting and socially divisive discursive practices comes interestingly close to some of the arguments in Kaup's conclusion. In his reading of Henry Roth's Call It Sleep, Gert Buelens disagrees with Roth's claim that the novel owed its success to the cultural homogeneity of the Jewish immigrant environment of his childhood.
In his reading of Henry Roth's Call It Sleep, Gert Buelens disagrees with Roth's claim that the novel owed its success to the cultural homogeneity of the Jewish immigrant environment of his childhood. Page 9 Relying on Bakhtinian distinctions of language types, Buelens argues convincingly that the success was enabled by a rather more complex remembering from a later, culturally differently coded environment and through the lenses of Anglo-Saxon modernist writing. Roth's novel, therefore, should in fact be seen as the heteroglot and polyglot product of the clash between several cultural forces that are manifest in the text's various languages.