Cover image for From Walden Pond to Jurassic Park : activism, culture, & American studies
From Walden Pond to Jurassic Park : activism, culture, & American studies
Lauter, Paul.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Durham : Duke University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
288 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
E175.8 .L39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Paul Lauter, an icon of American Studies who has been a primary agent in its transformation and its chief ambassador abroad, offers a wide-ranging collection of essays that demonstrate and reflect on this important and often highly politicized discipline. While American Studies was formerly seen as a wholly subsidiary academic program that loosely combined the study of American history, literature, and art, From Walden Pond to Jurassic Park reveals the evolution of an independent, highly interdisciplinary program with distinctive subjects, methods, and goals that are much different than the traditional academic departments that nurtured it.
With anecdote peppered discussions ranging from specific literary texts and movies to the future of higher education and the efficacy of unions, From Walden Pond to Jurassic Park entertains even as it offers a twenty-first century account of how and why Americanists at home and abroad now do what they do. Drawing on his forty-five years of teaching and research as well as his experience as a political activist and a cultural radical, Lauter shows how a multifaceted increase in the United States' global dominion has infused a particular political urgency into American Studies. With its military and economic influence, its cultural and linguistic reach, the United States is--for better or for worse--too formidable and potent not to be understood clearly and critically.

Author Notes

Paul Lauter is Allan K. and Gwendolyn Miles Smith Professor of Literature at Trinity College in Connecticut and the General Editor of The Health Anthology of American Literature. His previous books include Canons and Contexts.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

General editor of Heath Anthology of American Literature (1990; 3rd ed., 1998), Lauter (literature, Trinity College, CT) has been described as an American-studies icon, a major agent in transforming the field, "its chief ambassador abroad." This intriguing record of his career as cultural-political activist is part manifesto, part tribute to an array of expressive forms from high literary art to pop culture trivia, from mainstream writers (omissions are astounding) to examples of ethnicity, diversity, otherness. In the book's first part, Lauter attempts to show the varied answers to the question of what "American studies" means. The second part considers the shifting relationships of American studies and ethnic studies, and the unavoidable self-awareness of an American abroad, in whatever particular field of study. The third part involves Lauter's work in constructing the controversial Heath Anthology, with its radical revision of the canon of long-established American writers, based on his desire to accommodate such major concerns as literary modernism, cultural progressivism, and literary value. Among Lauter's most fascinating subjects, aside from the autobiographical information he provides, is his absorption with Melville as major literary force with a shaky hold on the reading public. Heartily recommended for upper-division undergraduates through faculty and for general readers. S. I. Bellman emeritus, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Table of Contents

Part I Practicing American Studies
1 Reconfiguring Academic Disciplines: The Emergence of American Studies
2 American Studies, American Politics, and the Reinvention of Class
3 Versions of Nashville, Visions of American Studies
4 Culture and Conformity in Wartime America: My Junior High School Songbook
5 Dinosaur Culture: From Mansfield Park to Jurassic Park
Part II American Studies in a Racialized World
6 American Studies and Ethnic Studies at the Borderlands Crossroads
7 Of Chodors and Capital
8 Fiction as Politics: The Novels of Charles Chesnutt
Part III Revisiting the Canon: The Question of Modernism
9 Reflecting On The Heath Anthology of American Literature
10 Melville Climbs the Canon
11 And Now, Ladies and Gentlemen, May I Present Miss Amy Lowell
12 Cold War Culture and the Construction of Modernism