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Why is English synonymous with literature in the United States? At the turn of the twentieth century, literature courses were taught in the original language, and English did not signify literature any more than did French, Italian, or other modern languages. Fifty years later, English had colonized literature, and non-English literatures became configured as "foreign language study." This timely and important intervention into an on-going debate shows how the multilingual population of American faculty and students became progressively more monoglot, as did the configuration of literary studies. Thomas Paul Bonfiglio locates these changes within the anti-immigration, xenophobic, anti-labor, mercantile, militarist, and technocratic ideologies that arose in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century and recommends the return of literary studies and the humanities to their roots.
United States English literature, foreign language study, monoglot
School of Arts and Sciences
Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
Bonfiglio, Thomas P. Why Is English Literature? Language and Letters for the Twenty-First Century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.