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Not India, in which Alejo Carpentier and Zora Neale Hurston finally discover America Open Access


Other title
American culture
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Katz, Marco
Supervisor and department
O'Driscoll, Michael (English and Film Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Cisneros, Odile (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Simpson, Mark (English and Film Studies)
Young, Richard (Modern Languages and Cultural Studies)
Brennan, Timothy Andres (Comparative Literature, University of Minnesota)
Department of English and Film Studies

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation argues for the potential of an American politics built on identities, cultures, and faith. Works by two Caribbean authors, Alejo Carpentier (1904-1980) and Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), provide central connections throughout these considerations while demonstrating how disparate people consider themselves American without losing their differences. Chapter one examines faith as enunciated in Carpentier’s explanation of American Marvelous Realism and as practiced in Hurston’s novels. According to these works, credence in America comes not from governmental attempts at continental unity, which too often leads to domination, but instead arises out of cultural endeavors that transcend political boundaries. Music in the second chapter exemplifies American cultural practice by boldly going where politicians fear to tread, resonating throughout the continent with sounds that typify specific regions while remaining strongly connected to one another. A backbeat, for example, that reveals musical connections between swing and vallenato does not negate the individuality of, respectively, Kansas City or Baranquilla. The third chapter considers Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s employment of Area Studies competencies in studies of Comparative Literature. In this case, specific applications of biology and music history apply to cultural studies of the Americas. Recent studies in genetics that trace similarities in all humans also reveal America as a site of greatest biological differentiation. Following ideas put forth by Spivak, Homi Bhabha, and Néstor García Canclini, this deconstructive approach to cultural studies concludes in the fourth chapter with an American politics that does not merely reverse established patterns of domination but instead emulates American cultural practices with the potential to make hegemonic readings irrelevant.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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