The New York University Colloquium in American Literature and Culture
The Composition and Reception of The Cambridge History of the American Novel: A Roundtable
with editors and contributors
Monday, September 10
19 University Place, Great Room
How does one create literary history? How should literary history be created? This roundtable will center on these questions, raised by The Cambridge History of the American Novel (CHAN). Attacked in The Wall Street Journal by the cultural critic Joseph Epstein as the work of “barbarians” and defended in Slate, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and elsewhere, CHAN is rapidly assuming a high profile in American literary studies.Importantly, CHAN was assembled and edited with the crucial aid of twenty-first century technology: the editors used a wiki, and resulting cross-references not only display discussion (and debate!) within the volume but also provide quasi-hypertextual “links.” Thus does CHAN offer a literal demonstration of differing views and alternate narratives within the text itself. As a book whose very structure calls attention to dialogue (and with it disagreement), CHAN invites dissent—so it is perhaps no surprise that it should attract high-profile attack. Such attacks deserve our attention, together with the volume itself.