The same midcentury cultural reorganization that established a middlebrow sphere of reading and writing and a low-literacy sphere alongside it formalized another literary world historically just as novel: a well-marked and well-supported zone of serious artistic authorship. As a result of this development, in the post-Civil War generation American literary writing for the first time acquired its own stabilized audience and secure social support - the place made for such writing involving it, as always, in a certain set of social relations.
Sacvan Bercovitch, "Introduction", dans Sacvan Bercovitch, éd., THE CAMBRIDGE HISTORY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE; Prose Writing 1860–1920, Cambridge University Press, 2005, 813 pages.
"America" in these volumes is a historical entity, the
United States of America. It is also a declaration of community, a people
constituted and sustained by verbal fiat, a set of universal principles, a
strategy of social cohesion, a summons to social protest, a prophecy, a dream,
an aesthetic ideal, a trope of the modern (“progress”, “opportunity”, “the
new”), a semiotics of inclusion (“melting pot”, “patchwork quilt”, “nation of
nations”), and a semiotics of exclusion, closing out not only the Old World but
all other countries of the Americas, North and South, as well as large groups
within the United States. A nationality so conceived is a rhetorical
battleground. “America” in these volumes is a shifting, many-sided focal point for exploring
the historicity of the text and the textuality of history.