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The convergence of activists in Seattle during the World Trade Organization meetings captured the headlines in 1999. These demonstrations marked the first major expression on U.S. soil of worldwide opposition to inequality, privatization, and political and intellectual repression. This turning point in world politics coincided with an ongoing quandary in academia - particularly in the humanities where the so-called "death of theory" has left the field on tenuous footing. In "What Democracy Looks Like", the editors and twenty-seven contributors argue that these crises - in the world and the academy - are not unrelated. The essays insist that, in the wake of "Seattle," teachers and scholars of American literature and culture are faced with the challenge of addressing new points of intersection between American studies and literary studies. The narrative, the poem, the essay, and the drama need to be re-examined in ways that are relevant to the urgent social and political issues of our time. Collectively urging scholars and educators to pay fresh attention to the material conditions out of which literature arises, this path-breaking book inaugurates a new critical realism in American literary studies. It provides a crucial link in the growing need to merge theory and practice with the goal of reconnecting the ivory tower elite to the activists on the street.
Rutgers University Press
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