Writing Multicultural America: The Powers of Canon and Ethnicity

Author: A. Robert Lee, Nihon University, Japan (retd.)
Email: arobertlee@gol.com
Published: November 2015

Citation: Lee, A. R. (2015). Writing Multicultural America: The Powers of Canon and Ethnicity. IAFOR Journal of Literature & Librarianship, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijl.4.1.01


America has long and vigorously been taken up with the issue of cultural identity, the one and the many. Its literary authorship, Puritans to Postmoderns, has been no less so engaged. Who gets to say what writing best speaks for the culture? Has there been a preemptive strike in which a largely white, male, protestant body of voice is taken to preside? With the 1960s and the culture-wars the terms of debate radically altered. A whole-scale revision of who speaks, who writes, who is to be listened to, and who (and what) is to be taught, has been talking place. The language, often warring, has been that of canon and multiculturalism, mainstream and periphery, a one "agreed" hierarchy of imaginative expression as against a huge and actually long ethnic plurality of idiom and memory. The differing claimants have been many and vociferous. This essay addresses the issues in some fullness. It looks again at the various working terms of reference, and then at what in the past has gone into the formation of the American literary canon. There follows a selective analysis of four multicultural arenas — Native America, Afro-America, Latino/a America and Asian America.


multicultural, canon, ethnicity, whiteness, native, African American, Latino/a, Asian American, transnational, pluralism