Four myths dominated U.S. ideology in the 19th century. Myths of white victimization, capitalist progress, the frontier, and the ″self-made man″ shaped how many Americans thought about themselves. These ideas lay at the heart of ruling class justification for settler colonialism, the expansion of racial slavery, and the development of the capitalist market system. They became the basis for the transition to U.S. global imperialism.
This interdisciplinary study explores how literature in that long century created or challenged those mythologies.
Marxist analysis of class struggle, social relations of production, racial capitalism, colonialism and imperialism, and heteronormative patriarchy are the main tools to understand the complex relationship between ideas and society. Mythologies uses those tools for new readings of the writings or speeches of James Fenimore Cooper, Royall Tyler, William Apess, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Wilson, Andrew J. Blackbird, Booker T. Washington, Anna Julia Cooper, and Yung Wing.
Mythologies shows how activists, writers, and thinkers who debunked those four mythologies anticipate the great revolutionary ideas of the 20th century.
Alan Wald –
Wendland-Liu advances new critical paradigms to dismantle mythological themes of 19th century U.S. literature. His impressive research and erudite argumentation combine in a tour de force.
Alan Wald, H. Chandler Davis Collegiate Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan
E. San Juan, Jr. –
Applying the method of historical materialism with astute versatility, Wendland-Liu demonstrates the dialectical interweaving of class conflict, gendered constructions, and racializing ideologies that legitimized U.S. colonial adventures.
E. SAN JUAN, Jr, Emeritus Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Connecticut
Tao Zhang –
Wendland-Liu not simply critiques white supremacy, he exposes the many erasures and contradictions occasioned in its production and maintenance. Otherwise silenced groups thus have a chance to express themselves and demonstrate their counter-agency. This is an interesting, shrewd, and cogent work.
Tao Zhang, Sichuan International Studies University, Chongqing, China
Michael Witgen –
Wendland-Liu reframes the literature of the long 19th century in the U.S., exposing a thin veneer of American exceptionalism and white supremacy that sought to cover the history and legacy of Indigenous and Black self-determination at the core of American history. Mythologies offers a re-imagining of U.S. literature, a critical analysis that looks squarely at systemic exploitation, expropriation, and dispossession so integral to the founding and expansion of the Republic.
Michael Witgen, Professor, Department of History, Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, Columbia University