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Paul Buhle

A Specter is Haunting American Studies

In a provocative 1986 American Quarterly article, Michael Denning argues against the very question that informs American Studies: “What is American?” For Denning, using that question as a methodological starting point is problematic because it assumes that “America” (shorthand for the United States, or for the culture of the United States, or for the idea that animates the culture of the United States) is exceptional. American Studies, understood as such, is the product of American exceptionalism, and, since American exceptionalism is something that all correct-thinking individuals must reject, perhaps American Studies is something we should reject, too. Of course, the Read more