Criticism and the Canon
As for "historicism," it has never really disappeared from the scene, though like naturalism" it has indeed passed through many stages. In most quarters historicism has long since put aside the old values and habits which had drawn the scorn of Nietzsche and brought about the much publicized "crisis of historicism" of the earlier part of this century; and it seems too soon to place it (along with consciousness and the self) among the unliving or make it a candidate for disinterment.
(Donald R. Kelley, 168)
Let us begin with R. K. Meiners's question,
[W]hat might have happened if a model of historical criticism such as that represented by Erich Auerbach had been sufficiently present in American institutions to furnish a real antagonism to New Criticism rather than the largely eclectic and untheoretical historicism that prevailed more through default than energy[?]. (130)
What indeed. But the question needs to be rephrased as not so much a matter of prior presence/absence as a matter of contemporaneous contest. Granting that an older academic historicism offered little resistance to the onslaught of New Critical formalism, we may yet wonder why the more sophisticated
[This chapter first appeared as an essay-review in Diacritics, where it was dedicated to Roy Harvey Pearce. The present version is slightly revised and expanded. I am grateful to the editors of Diacritics for permission to reprint.]
historicist work being produced at exactly the same time as that of the New Critics achieved so little visibility or effectivity. If, that is, we date the emergence, establishment, and dominance of those varieties of critical theory and practice subsumable under the broad rubric of the New Criticism from the 1920s to the 1950s, we are looking precisely at a period in which strong historical study of a sort very different from whatever "eclectic and untheoretical historicism" may have been present was being produced. Most of the references can be found in Wesley Morris's Toward a New Historicism, from which I would select for mention, first, the monumental three volumes by V. L. Parrington, Main Currents in American Thought (1927); also in the 1920s Van Wyck Brooks is in print with The Pilgrimage of Henry James (1925) and studies of Emerson and Others (1927). By 1933, we have Granville Hicks's The Great Tradition; in that same year, the Johns Hopkins philosopher, Arthur O. Lovejoy, delivered the William James Lectures at Harvard that would appear in 1936 as The Great Chain of Being . Also in 1936, William Charvat published The Origins of American Critical Thought . Frank Lentricchia's recent attention to Kenneth Burke may remind us that Burke's Attitudes toward History, in two volumes, appeared in 1937. Perry Miller issued the second volume of his The New England Mind, From Colony to Province in 1939, and F. O. Matthiessen's American Renaissance dates from 1941. Throughout the 1940s Leo Spitzer and Lovejoy carry on a debate in public on the value of Lovejoy's "history of ideas" for literary studies. Finally, to make this survey no longer, Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land: The Ameri-
can West as Symbol and Myth came out in 1950, to be followed in 1953 by the first major publication of the critic whose work I shall examine in detail, Roy Harvey Pearce's The Savages of America: A Study of the Indian and the American Mind —these latter two texts influenced by Lovejoy's method. Whatever the problems one might discover in these texts, or in others I have not named, they could not accurately be described as "eclectic and untheoretical," although all of them take seriously "the conviction," as a recent comment on the sociology of literature states it, "that literature and society necessarily explain each other" (Ferguson, et. al., 421). Only to the extent that such a "conviction" can be accepted as a virtual commonplace can we claim to have marginalized the formalist legacy of the New Criticism, to have moved historicist criticism from margin to center.
Returning to Meiners's formulation, perhaps we may say that if the New Criticism did not have a powerful historical antagonist in place, it certainly had competition from a theoretically sophisticated historical criticism contemporaneous with it. One reason this criticism did not establish its methods as the norm, I believe, is that it was being produced chiefly by Americanists, two of the most powerful of whom (belatedly, so far as any contest for critical influence was concerned) worked with what were considered (even by the standards of Americanists and historicists) eccentric materials. Smith attended to such things as the popular dime novels; Pearce, as I shall note further, centered his study on texts concerned with the Indian. I am positing here, as others have done, a relation between critical theory and the canon, and suggesting that from the 1920s to the 1950s a persistent Eurocentrism in American institutions aided the New Criticism in its progress to a position of dominance. If this is so, then the only way
some hypothetical American Auerbach could have helped a historicist criticism to become the dominant practice would have been, first, of course, to have published here a good many years before the actual Auerbach published his major book, and, most of all, like the actual Auerbach, to have worked predominantly with the standard canon of European literature, touching only a very few, if any, American books.
For it is important to recall that New Critical formalism established itself against the moralism of its predecessor, the "New Humanism" (I think this must be what Meiners has in mind as unsophisticated historicism) of Irving Babbitt and Paul Elmer More, among others, by questioning its method but not its relation to American literature. Just as Paul Elmer More might admit to feeling that "American literature is indeed a wilderness of mediocrity" (in Tanner: 174), so might the New Critics find few authors in three hundred years of American writing who engaged their interest. More precisely, the American authors they did work with were not those who seemed most to require consideration of their implication in American society and culture—I borrow, here, a favorite phrase from Pearce. As Russell Reising has noted, this was part of a program that, to the extent it granted any "socially mimetic element in American literature," systematically "devalue[d] it" in order to "privilege the aesthetic, symbolic, or linguistic elements" of it (17).
Of course it is precisely the strategy of formalisms, whether
they are theorized by Rene Wellek or Paul de Man, to subordinate if not wholly ignore a range of potential contexts for the text as not centrally relevant to their study. For formalists, literary inquiry differs from that of sociology or psychology or, indeed, of history, in limiting itself to the internal system of a text—its ironies and tensions for New Critics, its tropes or figures for deconstructionists. For this reason, formalist criticism must generally accept the canon as it finds it, for there is no formalist method for raising questions of evaluation; texts are "good" as they work interestingly or—what is the same thing—as they provide interesting work to a particular method. For older European authors, we know who is of first rank, time and the opinion of those competent to judge having made the selection—or at least we know those worthy of attacking. In regard to newer writing, authors are proposed for consideration as their work seems amenable to formalist method, which is again to say as it seems not to insist on any relation to history, at least to no history other than literary history.
This is why for the New Critics, and, as we shall see, for the deconstructionists, Henry James's comments in his early book on Hawthorne (1879) on America's presumed lack of social texture amenable to esthetic working, become a necessary first premise for the study of American literature. Let me quote the passage at some length. James, writing about the difficulties in the way of Hawthorne's becoming a fully achieved realist novelist, notes "the items of high civilization, as it exists in other countries, which are absent from the texture of American life." There is
No State, in the European sense of the word, and indeed barely a specific national name. No sovereign, no court, no personal loyalty, no aristocracy, no church, no clergy, no army, no diplomatic service, no country gentlemen, no palaces, no castles, nor manors, nor old country-houses, nor parsonages, nor thatched cottages, nor ivied ruins; no cathedrals, nor abbeys, nor little Norman churches; no great Universities nor public schools—no Oxford, nor Eton, nor Harrow; no literature, no novels, no museums, no pictures, no political society, no sporting class—no Epsom nor Ascot! (1963, 34)
It is the thinness on which American cultural production is presumably based that becomes, for formalists, a kind of supplementary justification for the "intrinsic" treatment of American literature; the formalist canon is made up of those
few figures who recognized what the New Critics knew all along and James had shrewdly expressed, that there is not much point relating an American text to its context. Hawthorne and Dickinson, acute in their ostensible hermiticism/hermeticism, are interesting to work with inasmuch as their interest cannot possibly be a function of their relation to American life (what is there, after all?); beyond these, there is not much to be done with the older American literature. Of the new, there is Eliot who, in all the quotation of the Waste Land could find need for no American author; and Pound, who, despite his "pact" with Walt Whitman, was never deeply engaged by any American. Frank Norris and Dreiser and Dos Passos are untouched or denigrated. And the European canon is simply given, the result of time's selective wisdom; how could it be otherwise, for to question the canon would be to engage material and ideological issues that are outside the purview of the literary critic. The estheticization of the literary/historical—the denial, in Reising's phrase, "of the possibility (or the desirability) of studying American literature as a vehicle of social knowledge" (17)—is itself profoundly ideological, as are, to recall a point made earlier, all calls to keep literature free of any values but those of "greatness."
Now, the Americanist-historicist critics, it must be admitted, also seem to have accepted the Jamesian assessment of American life in comparison to that of Europe in ways fairly similar to the New Critics, thereby abandoning ground that might well have been held against the onslaught of intrinsic criticism. The difference is that for them, as historicists, this thinness is a problem rather than a permission: Parrington, Brooks, Matthiessen, and others were constantly worrying the question of how American culture, for all its deficiencies,
might not only disable but also empower somehow the likes not only of Hawthorne and James but of Poe and Twain, and of Melville and Whitman—whose status as canonical figures is exactly what is at stake. What is missing from their critique, of course, is any attention to the possible development of American life not only in relation to what was missing in reference to England but to what was encountered, newly, here, most particularly in relation to Native American peoples. This is to say that the historicists were also oriented eastward.
In these regards, perhaps it is worth a moment to recall the regional conflict between east and west so strongly patterned in American life since the time of Andrew Jackson. Both the New Critics and their historicist contemporaries, as proponents of high culture, were inevitably proponents of the east (and, if they pushed further, just as inevitably of Europe). They were thus opposing—as late as the 1920s and 1930s—the west-oriented "frontier" thesis of Frederick Jackson Turner, the notion that American culture came out of the "forest," the catch-all term for the "wilderness" of noncivilization or savagism. (Turner did not, I think, mean high culture, James's "items of high civilization," but culture as the anthropologist would define it, the various institutions and manners taken as "natural" by the populace at large.) An extreme reading of Turner would thus deny that eastern high culture was really American at all—Barry Goldwater was not innovating when he suggested some twenty-five years ago that New York be cut free of America and set adrift upon the ocean—and those who admired eastern high culture could disagree with Turner only in longing that one day it might indeed be American, once the west caught up, as it were, became "civilized" itself (westerners, thus, becoming the east's Indian "sav-
ages"). This was not, of course, the west's view of the matter, nor is it today. And I have already indicated the degree to which east/west disputes remain unresolved—in academic as well as general culture. Here it may not be irrelevant to note that Henry Smith and Roy Pearce, the first to engage in sophisticated study of the images of popular culture and the popular images of Indians, are themselves not easterners, Pearce hailing from California and Smith from the Southwest. Only with Pearce's historicist work does it become possible to consider what I have taken as axiomatic, the influence of Native American culture on American culture.
The historical developments I have noted are such as to make the legacy of even a subordinated historicist criticism in American Studies still a thoroughly hierarchical matter. To this day, in every case, those who work on American subjects privileging the canonical WASP, eastern, male writers (and, to be sure, Emily Dickinson) struggling with cultural thinness have had primary claims to attention. Consider, for example, that at least one reason for Yvor Winters's tangency to both the historicist and formalist criticism of his day, lies partly in his determination to champion both Frederick Goddard Tuckerman and Native American literature (not to say Winters's position as a Californian before that state's university system had the high repute it does today). Those who attend to feminist materials (just now, for the moment) come next. Afro-American literary expression takes third place on
this particular scale. Next, in large measure due to the recent work of Eve Kosofsky-Sedgwick, among others, come studies of "homosocial" discourse, the writing of gay men and lesbians. Popular literature of the sort that Henry Nash Smith pioneered in studying probably occupies fifth place on this odd but powerfully operative scale, whereas work attentive to Native American literature comes, to date, only a distant sixth. For all of this, it remains the case that clear rankings and accurate classifications of canonical importance become increasingly difficult to establish as one sinks lower on this scale: Is Smith's work more nearly focused on the regional or the popular, after all? Is Annette Kolodny's recent work with women's journals of the nineteenth century more feminist or regional—or popular? And, given the fair degree of rigidity that still prevails in academic English departments, the classificatory unclarity of the hors canonical texts works against their visibility: What if the Department hasn't been able to afford its feminist, its regionalist, its Afro-Americanist, its specialist in Native American studies?
I note that Smith's book still has no major theoretical influence outside American studies, if there. Smith, however, was asked to publish his "reassessment" of Virgin Land for the volume Ideology and Classic American Literature, edited by Sacvan Bercovitch and Myra Jehlen, but Pearce was not asked to publish his "reassessment" of Savages (in The Journal of Ethnic Studies ) whose theoretical component has to this
day been overlooked in false tribute, as it were, to its substantive riches. (Pearce's own assessment of Virgin Land appears in the title essay of his new book, Gesta Humanorum, to which I refer below.) Nor was he asked to contribute to Bercovitch's Reconstructing American Literary History —neither of which collections, let it be noted, has a single essay dealing with Native American materials. One further potentially illustrative reference: Jane Tompkins chooses to demonstrate the importance of feminist criticism by studying Uncle Tom's Cabin, a novel by a woman dealing with Afro-Americans (see "Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Politics of Literary History" in Bercovitch/Jehlen: but the essay has appeared in a great many places). When Tompkins wishes, however, to produce an essay in non-sequiturial criticism, whose theoretical point (presented as "against theory" neopragmatism) is that research and interpretive and evaluative effort are to no special purpose because we are always thrown back on whatever it may be that we already believe—can it be an accident that such an essay just happens to have as its focus a subject involving Native American materials? See her "'Indians': Textualism, Morality, and the Problem of History," in which "Indians" exist only between inverted commas for Tomkins although textualism, morality, and even the problem of history need no such marking.
To recapitulate: from the 1920s to the 1950s, both our increasingly dominant formalist criticism and our active but
pedagogically less visible historicist criticism seem to have shared curiously similar views of American culture but not quite similar views of American literature as a whole. Although the New Critics pretty much always knew which American writers were worth study, whether of the past century or of the present, the historicists were not quite sure, and historicist criticism, as it actually developed, increasingly approached the possibility of a challenge to the canon it was itself helping to establish. Finally, I have claimed, with Smith and Pearce, historicist criticism did begin to take seriously work that required consideration of the social production of meaning, work whose importance could not be ascribed foremost to its internal system of relations. For a variety of reasons—economic, political, and social, quite as much as "literary"—it turned out that the canon was preserved intact and only the rationale for its preservation changed; thus the New Criticism won the day, and we have not yet had an effective historical criticism (as we have not had an effective socialist party) in America.
Indeed, although Wesley Morris may have pointed us Toward a New Historicism fifteen years ago, it is only today that we find something called—in the best old fashion—the New Historicism coming center stage, sending into the wings its predecessor, another formalism, the one known generally as poststructuralism or deconstruction. Here we may note yet another curious overlapping of essentially opposed positions, for, just as older historicists and older (New Critical) formalists seem to have agreed on the sociocultural thinness of American life, so, too, do the New Historicists and new formalist deconstructionists seem to agree on the determinative power of impersonal forces in the making of texts. As Roy Harvey Pearce states it in the Foreword to his book, Gesta
Humanorum: Studies in the Historicist Mode, it seems to be the fact for the New Historicism that its "practicioners too often have an awkward and embarrassing difficulty with the concept of Self—and, along with it, with the concept of specifically human intentionality" (ix).
Pearce's own historicism in its recent humanist form certainly does privilege the Self; but his practice of historicist criticism has not always done so, or not to the current degree. So here is Pearce, once more it would seem, going against the grain: some thirty-five years ago it was his historical method and his choice of American thought about Indians as subject that marginalized his work; now, as a new historicism comes to the fore, his militant humanism may serve to obscure his contribution to a historicist criticism of American literature. I want to embark, here, on a closer examination of Pearce's work which can, I think, serve to provide something of a test case for understanding what our dominant formalist criticism has suppressed—and what a newly emerging mode of historicist criticism may itself suppress. My particular interest in all this is to promote an increasing visibility for Native American literature, both traditional and contemporary, and to encourage its inclusion in the canon of American literature.
Pearce's The Savages of America: A Study of the Indian and the Idea of Civilization, appeared at a time when, to cite Myra Jehlen, "ideological analysis and literary criticism appeared inherently contradictory to most critics of American literature" (2), largely as a result of the New Criticism's achieved dominance, as noted above. Against the grain, then, Pearce's book offered ideological analysis and literary criticism, or, given the extraordinary range of his study—from seventeenth-century travel writing to Indian plays of the nineteenth century—
offered discursive analysis, a broad cultural study of the kind we now associate with writers such as Gramsci and Raymond Williams, Bakhtin, and, of course, Michel Foucault.
Pearce's work was an attempt to elevate Lovejoy's "history of ideas" approach to intellectual history from the stage of "analysis" to that of "synthesis": as Pearce describes the analytic stage (typical of most of Lovejoy's own work) in Gesta Humanorum, this meant "the thinking through of the logical possibilities latent in any statement of belief or in any idea" (1987,9) as found in a text, or, as he put it in 1956—in a form, I think, much closer to his own use of Lovejovean "analysis" in Savagism: "the searching of literature, along with philosophical, historical, economic, and analogous forms of writing, for the explicit or implicit expression of ideas of significance for the history of our culture" (1967, 2). On the level of synthesis, however, not only were what Lovejoy called "unit ideas" considered; rather, "Combinations of unit ideas . . . were placed in their socio-cultural contexts and were shown as they shaped men's minds and opinions leading them to acts" (1987, 10). The "history of ideas" as it might be practiced in the "synthetic mode" thus led to the question, "How do ideas, as we have come to know them through this kind of historical analysis, function and have meaning in the contexts in which they have appeared and have had their immediate cultural impress?" (Pearce, 1956: 3). In Savagism, then, Pearce in effect was show-
ing how Lovejoy's work might indeed lead to a "social history of ideas," or as we might now put it, to a cultural critique.
It would be Pearce's task to show the way in which "the history of American civilization would . . . be conceived of as three-dimensional, progressing from past to present, from east to west, from lower to higher" (1967, 49), and how, for almost two hundred and fifty years, that conception would establish itself in relation to specific socially produced definitions of Indian "savagery." American "civilization," that is, invented itself as the obverse or opposite of Native American "savagism," what we would be, defined in relation to what they presumably were—or sensibly were not and could not be. In a later essay, Pearce would incorporate material from Savagism in a study of Melville's "The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating: Leatherstocking Unmasked," in which, as he says, "Melville shows how Indian-hating and its metaphysic have been taken to be necessary in God's scheme of things American" (1969, 117), a kind of summa of savagist logic where "destruction . . . [is] conceived as necessary to a cultural mission" (1969, 130). Those who remember Vietnam, or, more recently, the televised testimony of Oliver North, may shudder at the persistence of the metaphysics of Indian-hating.
In terms not only of his concern for the ideological contours of discourse in history, then, but also of his choice of subject matter, Pearce's study must have seemed strange. For, although the years between the two wars had seen a flurry of interest in the Indian, anthologies of Native poetry appearing for the first time and such diverse luminaries as Mary Austin, D. H. Lawrence, William Carlos Williams, and Yvor Winters
attending to things Indian, I can think only of Albert Keiser's 1933 study, The Indian in American Literature, as preceding Pearce's in its attention to European-American thought about the Native American. The canon—the effective and visible selection of texts—had, after all, stood firm.
Pearce's book, as I have said, is substantively rich, but it is theoretically clear and coherent as well. The Foreword to the first publication of Savagism proposed to work with "Idea, Symbol, and Image" as terms "meant to categorize, however roughly, stages in the history of an idea as it becomes part of a system of thought and action." "By Idea," Pearce wrote, "I mean a predication, explicit or implicit, which offers a solution of a major human problem. By Symbol I mean a vehicle for an Idea. . . . By Image I mean a vehicle for a Symbol." The idea was the notion of the savage and savagism: "the Symbol is the Indian; and the Images are those found in social, historical, and imaginative writing of the period" (1609–1851). Thus, as Pearce had announced at the beginning of his Foreword, Savages was "a book about a belief," but one that was also "planned according to [a] structure of thought and action " (my emphasis); and in a 1966 Postscript to the original Foreword he reaffirmed that "the book is a study of one of those unattractive 'isms' which taught our forebears how to make up their minds and also how to act " (1967, x; my emphasis). Pearce's practice of historicist criticism (he does not call it that yet) in Savagism, reconciles an orientation toward "ideas" and toward "actions," developing a concern, as I would gloss these, both for the social production of meanings as located in texts and for the material consequences or effectivity of those meanings as expressed in social action. One may reasonably see this practice as fundamentally enabling for such major Americanist studies—all of which take the place of the Indian
in the development of American society and culture as significant—as Richard Slotkin's Regeneration through Violence (1973), Michael Paul Rogin's Fathers and Children: Andrew Jackson and the Subjugation of the American Indian (1975), and Richard Drinnon's Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-hating and Empire-building (1980), among others.
But there is a very considerable difference between this version of historicist criticism and the version we find in Gesta Humanorum where, as I shall try to indicate, history becomes less a matter of shifting social belief and action, for Pearce, and more the unchanging record of the "tensions . . . between self and culture" (1987, x). The texts chosen for examination will be those most useful for the dramatization of that tension.
The change in Pearce's critical emphasis from the social/collective to the individual (and the parallel change in the texts studied) may be noted in three introductions to Hawthorne's work (The House of the Seven Gables , Twice-Told Tales , The Scarlet Letter ) he prepared for the J. M. Dent, Everyman Library. Here there is an intense emphasis on inwardness and the affective experience of the individual self (e.g., a concern for the "true and authentic self" a phrase repeated several times in the few pages of The Scarlet Letter piece). Full theoretical expression of this shift of emphasis comes in a densely brilliant (but neglected) essay of 1958 called "Historicism Once More." Curiously enough, this piece first appeared under New Critical auspices, at least to the extent that it was accepted by John Crowe Ransom for the Kenyon Review . In "Historicism Once More," history is no longer understood as the interaction of socially produced "beliefs" and of the social "actions" that result from those beliefs;
rather, for the first time I think in Pearce's work, history becomes thematized as that constant which serves as a check upon the individual self's longing for freedom and plenitude, as essentially the reified forces of "self-limitation and self-definition" (1967, 32). Sociocultural contexts and the individual's responsibility for her actions continue to be of importance, but increasingly any social and material detail thins out before a growing fascination with the thick possibilities of selfhood.
Pearce remarks the fact that we have certainly had historical critics concerned with backgrounds and sources, in order to ask, "what does it mean to be . . . a 'critical historicist' instead of an 'historical critic'?" (1967, 6). One thing it means is that we will try to see how the pastness, as Pearce calls it, of the literary work is involved in any apprehension of it we may achieve in the present. The concern is "not only to see literature in history . . . [but] to see history in literature" But the question remains, What is one to understand by history? Since literature (because of its fictive nature presenting what Pearce in several places refers to as conditional contrary-to-fact statements) is the form of writing best suited to record the human struggle for wholeness, the broad range of discursive materials examined in Savages is now largely abandoned for a concentration exclusively on literary writing, and that, indeed of the canonical authors. For, as Pearce unequivocally states it, "man, the self, is at the center of all literature and . . . literary works are necessarily created in terms of a fixed, unchanging and unchangeable sense of what it is to be aware of oneself as a
man, whatever one's situation in historical time" (1969, 26). To be sure, one's "situation" is never to be ignored, but the historical situation for Pearce is rarely materially and quantitatively but only "qualitatively in, existentially in, a literary work" (1969, 15), thus becoming fixed as a constant thematic: history is always and ever no more than the record of those forces that inevitably and necessarily condition the individual self's longing for freedom and plentitude. (This latter is no nostalgia for Pearce inasmuch as its achievement is for him as for Derrida an impossibility. I suspect a comparison between Pearce and Derrida on this subject would, among other things, reveal the aridity of the latter's response to human struggle—although since I first wrote this, Derrida seems to have been moved at least to textual gestures against apartheid.) Degrees of freedom—history as quantitatively allowing now something more now something less of human potentiality to be actualized—are not considered, nor is the category of social or collective freedom set in relation to the existential freedom of the apparently autonomous individual.
"In literature," Pearce writes, "humanitas triumphs over history, even as it triumphs by means of history" (1969, 31). At this point it would still be theoretically possible to bal-
ance the concern for self with an attention to the social and material; the turn to the self is not, that is, in itself necessarily destructive of history as the record of temporal difference. As Fredric Jameson writes, "any critical insights of whatever variety (stylistic, psychoanalytic, archetypal, typological, generic, semiotic) can always be historicized" (1981, 375), and so, of course, there is no dismissing the existential/phenomenological concerns Pearce expresses as inherently suspect. After all, Jameson himself would only echo Pearce in writing that "History is . . . the experience of Necessity. . . . History is what hurts, it is what refuses desire and sets inexorable limits to individual as well as collective praxis"—and this, of course, in a book whose call to arms is "Always historicize" (1981, passim). The question, as I understand it, concerns what kind of self we envision, and what sort of tensions exist between the self and the experience of History/Necessity. The question is also whether we will let the upper-case initials of History and Necessity be the final word on the subject or whether we will descend to the lower-case (as it were) and examine the details of their working.
In Gesta Humanorum, the agon of self and history, desire for freedom and confrontation with finitude, provide the central theme, with Pearce developing and refining his understanding of humanitas through the elaboration of the concept of the two humanisms, what he calls the Humanism of the One and the Humanism of the Many. The first is "Humanism overdetermined by Self [where the demands of the id are felt to dominate or exert major power] and Humanism overdetermined by Culture [where the demands of the superego are felt most strongly] (1987, xii). Because the focus is on American
literature, "The studies collected here are mainly concerned with that predominating Humanism, for well and for ill, in American society in its history, the Humanism of the One" (1987, xii). Pearce traces the claims of the cock-crowing ego (I allude to Thoreau, a writer Pearce does not treat in these studies, although his two humanisms might indeed prove useful ways to come at Thoreau) and its shortfalls in the poetry of the "age of Paine," in Hawthorne, Whitman, Twain, and in Wallace Stevens (the Stevens essay is particularly fine), and in the "New Poetry" of Snodgrass, Duncan, Wright, Ignatow, Ashbery, and others. It is in the Stevens essay that Pearce, as I read him, points to the way his critical project may be brought full circle. Stevens, to whose sense of the ambiguity, duality, and "tragico-comical" thematic of life Pearce responds so deeply, must, in this brave and moving essay, finally be rejected as the full examplar of American literature. Pearce unsentimentally recognizes how the Humanism of the One may become "an isolating humanism" (1987, 153), and he pulls back from Stevens because "what cannot be decreated is the fact, the factuality of the self in its history—that is, historicity as such" (1987, 153).
Pearce catalogues current critical perspectives "according to the sort of anthropology (or anthropological commitments) in which they are grounded" (vii), sketching relations between
"forms of Symbolic Anthropology" and the problem of representation, and "Geertzian and Frankfort School anthropology" and ideological work, before announcing that his "studies have as their matrix psychological anthropology—what in the past was called culture-personality theory," where "culture," as I have indicated above, equates pretty much to superego demands on the ego and "personality" is constituted by how the ego handles those demands in opposition to the demands of an ever-present, all-desiring id. Now, it seems to me that it will not do to dismiss this concern for humanitas—for the "consciousness of self and self-consciousness" on which Pearce centers his most recent work—as merely a bourgeois illusion. I would instantiate here Allon White's commentary relating to Bakhtin (to whom I will turn soon) as humanist to the effect that the "notorious" antihumanism of poststructuralism has defined humanism in a "perfunctory and impoverished" manner so that it might dismiss it, to its own self-aggrandizement, in a pragmatic "rhetoric of revaluation" (230). White cites Kate Soper's important distinction between humanism as primary locus for the question of human agency (my primary concern here) and humanism as teleology, the belief in "the idea that there is a particular social grouping 'destined' to realize humanity's essential being or historic purpose" (in White, 230–231).
As Terry Eagleton (in "The Subject of Literature") has noted bitterly, to treat literature as the locus of an aimless, contentless, Kantian subjectivity, and the self as merely the playground for swirling affect has been and can be the cruelest of mystifications. But there are other ways to conceive the project of producing the Subject, and these may well be important to consider just now, both for literary theory in general and for the study of Native American literature in particular. Bakhtin, as Allon White remarks, is "certainly a humanist . . . believing
in a strong sense of human agency operating on the basis of structures and conventions already in place and not freely chosen" (231)—although he is not, as Pearce is not, a teleological humanist.
Here, some anthropology may be useful. For one thing, as Clifford Geertz writes—in what may be seen as a qualified reaffirmation of the classic statement of Marcel Mauss ("A category of the human mind: the notion of person; the notion of self" )—the "concept of the person . . . exists in recognizable form among all social groups," although "the actual conceptions involved vary from one group to the next, and often quite sharply (in Shweder and LeVine, 126). Thus it is that
The Western conception of the person as a bounded, unique, more or less integrated motivational and cognitive universe, a dynamic center of awareness, emotion, judgment, and action organized into a distinctive whole and set contrastively both against other such wholes and against its social and natural background, is, however incorrigible it may seem to us, a rather peculiar idea within the contexts of the world's cultures. (in Shweder and LeVine, 126)
Nevertheless, as Richard Shweder points out in a discussion of Geertz's essay,
the concept of the self [Geertz] refers to as a Western conception . . . is precisely the concept that most developmental psychologists would say has to be there in childhood in all societies, not just in the West. . . . In other words something that fits [Geertz's] description of the Western adult conception of the self may also be a universal infant and early childhood conception of the self. (in Sweder and LeVine, 13)
one which "gets expressed among adults in the West and overridden or reversed among adults in Bali" or other cultures.
These anthropologists do not tell us whether that expressed self is uniformly Western or predominantly middle class, nor do they begin to specify ways to ascertain—I am thinking again of Eagleton's essay—the content of that "bounded, unique, more or less integrated motivational and cognitive universe" as described by Geertz. If one thinks of the quotations from the Children's Employment Commission Report in the first volume of Marx's Capital, one may wonder of the children not yet in their teens working twelve-hour days regularly with frequent four-day shifts of fourteen hours each (and some days eighteen-hour and round-the-clock shifts) whether they were free to express their "best selves." Less dramatically but as tellingly, one may try to imagine the everyday situations of those who appear in the two family histories in "Life at the Edge" in Consumer Reports and wonder how bounded, unique, and more or less integrated these selves are likely to be. (I deliberately mention here a nonspecialized, mainstream publication outside any "left" orbit.) And one may think also of the postmodern "self" marked by "schizophrenic euphoria," in Fredric Jameson's powerful account (1984, passim), and wonder the same. As Steven Lukes has pointed out in commenting on Mauss's essay, at just about the time that Mauss's "sacred" moi was being founded by Fichte as "a being possessing metaphysical and moral value . . . a sacred being" (23), so, too, was that self being constituted negatively. In the apt quotation Lukes chooses from Foucault, the "individual is not to be thought of as a sort of elementary nucleus, a primitive atom"; rather, it is
one of the prime effects of power that certain bodies, certain gestures, certain discourses, certain desires, come to be identified and constituted as individuals. . . . The individual which power has constituted is at the same time its vehicle. (in Lukes, 295)
Add (as Lukes does) Musil's representative modernist observation on the difficulties of self-consciousness in mass society (Musil: "In earlier times one could be an individual with a better conscience than one can today" (in Lukes, 295); add Mary Midgley's account of the self as always gender inflected (Midgley: the "whole idea of a free, independent, enquiring, choosing individual, an idea central to European thought, has always been essentially the idea of a male. . . . In spite of its force and nobiliity, it contains a deep strain of falsity . . . . because the supposed independence of the male was itself false. It was parasitical, taking for granted the love and service of non-autonomous females [and indeed often of the less enlightened males as well]" (51); add, to be sure, the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima; the millions killed in the Holocaust; and it is not hard to see why the concept of the "sacred" or "transcendental" self would have to be dispersed, rethought in order for new work to be done.
But perhaps the reaction against the older privileging of self and self-consciousness itself went too far, so that today, both the self-pronounced humanist, Roy Harvey Pearce, and the self-pronounced antihumanist Terry Eagleton must each point out "an awkward and embarrassing difficulty with the concept of Self—and along with it, with the concept of specifically
kind of thought officially designated as anti-humanist" and concerned to think what transcends or escapes human consciousness and intention. Similarly the Second Technological Revolution of the late 19th century—an unparalleled quantum leap in human power over nature—was the moments of expression of a whole range of nihilisms associated with "modernity" or with high modernism in culture. (1981, 191)
human intentionality" (1987, ix), and so a need "to confront the problem of the subject" all over again (Eagleton, in Milner, 133). Eagleton continues:
What one is asking for is less a rethinking of the subject than, to use an old term, a rethinking of the agent, a rethinking of the subject as agent in a context where unworkable ideas of agency, the agent as transcendental source, have been properly discredited. (in Milner, 133)
And this sort of rethinking, it seems to me, is not foreclosed by Pearce's focus on the self, which is always for him implicated in history. In the studies that make up Gesta Humanorum, as Pearce writes,
I tried to find those quite specific critically determinative sociocultural, historical situations out of which the writings I have studied have come, so to see how those situations (which I would declare are in effect ideological) have in good part made the achievements of those writings both possible and impossible. (1987, xiii)
Now, if ideology, albeit in parenthesis, stands in for the meaning of "sociocultural, historical situations," stands, therefore, as a symbol for what Pearce in other places named history, or society, leading always to a sense of the past rather than an account of it, then we are not likely to examine the content of ideology that will, once again, be thematized as yet another constant, the factor of time's constraints upon desire. But Pearce's own theory in no way requires this.
One can see history dialectically, as an agon not of freedom and finitude taken at so general a level as to have the battle's conclusion (not to say its meaning as tragico-comical) always foreordained. One can see history as the attempt on the part of individuals and groups to gain specific increments of freedom, as these are as much dependent on objective, which is to say material, conditions as on subjective sensations alone. As Mary Midgley has put it, "The choice now is between promoting everybody, equally to the position of a Hobbesian or Sartrean solitary individual, or re-thinking the notion of individuality radically from scratch" (55), a rethinking that must pay detailed attention to the specific social and institutional structures of complex social formations. Roy Harvey Pearce's work can provide a theoretical base from which to engage such work—which, for American criticism, now must include a specific and historical rethinking of individuality in relation to Native American collective concepts of the self.
The preceding discussion proposed the usefulness of, in effect, joining the earlier and later work of Roy Harvey Pearce to produce a model for a more comprehensive criticism of American literature as a national body of texts and as a specific selection of texts. In the 1950s, Pearce told us that the American concept of "civilization" depended upon various projections of Native American "savagism," our positive national self-definition achieved by insisting upon a certain negative definition of "them." And Pearce showed that a great deal of our American writing, whether strictly "literary" or not, was concerned with the meaning, morality, and implications of this process. This we had had from no one before. Now, in the 1980s, as I read him, Pearce's humanist historicism in its most
fully developed form in Gesta Humanorum tells us that our new awareness of national definitions (to use a somewhat homely locution for what may otherwise be described as the ideological, hegemonic, or epistemic) may have caused us to ignore the ways in which individuals still struggle to align their own situated and highly particular sense of things with this always-already-given national sense. And a great deal of our writing, mostly of the kind formally considered "literary," now speaks of this struggle, however much it may also speak of and by means of collective representations.
These two sides of Pearce's work appear quite clearly in a talk he gave in 1973 to the American Historical Association (published as "From the History of Ideas to Ethnohistory"). There, he offered a reconsideration of his Savagism and Civilization, claiming that Savagism, his study of an American ideology, would have been a better book had it "dealt in richer detail with the experiential qualities of those whose beliefs and actions it tries to comprehend" (1974, 90), and this "from the perspectives of Red as well as White" (1974, 91). Pearce urges that we read the work of Edward Sapir, A. I. Hallowell, and the largely neglected ethnoanalyst (to call him that) Georges Devereux, quite as much as that of Lévi-Strauss and Clifford Geertz. It is the perspective of the red in a variety of expressive forms, of course, that has been ignored, marginalized, or, more recently, reduced to a merely statistical potency as one of the "multiethnic" literatures of the United States. But the cultural production of indigenous people, like the cultural production of Afro-American people, for obvious historical reasons has, as I have noted, a special status in relation to the canon of American literature. The case for the Indian, at least, has been made recently by a number of writers whose arguments I will not attempt to summarize; in-
stead, I shall simply let Walt Whitman speak briefly for them all. In a letter dated July 20, 1883, Whitman wrote,
As to our aboriginal or Indian population . . . I know it seems to be agreed that they must gradually dwindle as time rolls on, and in a few generations more leave only a reminiscence, a blank. But I am not at all clear about that. As America, from its many far-back sources and current supplies, develops, adapts, entwines, faithfully identifies its own—are we to see it cheerfully accepting and using all the contributions of foreign lands from the whole outside globe—and then rejecting the only ones distinctively its own—the autochthonic ones? (in Chapman, 21)
This letter, included by Whitman in the "deathbed edition" of his work, as Abraham Chapman notes, does not appear in the MLA-approved, five-volume edition of Whitman's correspondence. Nor has it, to my knowledge, been cited by those who quote James's contemporary insistence on the continuing absence of an American "own."
The perspective of the red in relation to that of the white appears particularly clearly in Indian autobiographies (texts, as I have elsewhere noted, that are compositely rather than individually produced) as the textual equivalent of the frontier. The Native self documented in the text called an Indian "autobiography" is the result of a specific encounter—adversarial, cooperative, or whatever—between the Native American and the European American. There is good reason to use such a model, in appropriately dilute or concentrated form as the individual case may demand, for the study of selected American texts. American fiction, poetry, or autobiography, after
all, is produced culturally not only as a system of differences between here and there, in the Jamesian paradigm (where "there" is fullness and "here" only lack), but as a system of differences between here and the "autochthonic" priority of what is "distinctively" America's "own," as in Whitman's model—a model in which both parties to the relation have occasionally found themselves face to face. As a national literature, American literature needs to know its local components better, and all the more so if it is to play the role it should in the constitution of an international, indeed, a cosmopolitan literature.
Here, for example, is the Cheyenne warrior Wooden Leg, in his autobiography, describing an important moment in the cultural "development" of his individual "personality":
The soft whisperings of an eagle wing bone flute came into my ears. The sound seemed to come from the roof and from other points in the utterly dark interior of the lodge. After a few of the gentle blasts, I felt the instrument being placed in my hands. My father put it there. It now was mine, to keep. It was to be worn around my neck, suspended at the midbreast by a buckskin thong, during all times of danger. If I were threatened with imminent harm I had but to put it to my lips and cause it to send out its soothing notes. That would ward off every evil design upon me. It was my mystic protector. It was my medicine. (137–138)
Not every Cheyenne boy had exactly this experience, although some such experience was apparently typical. And, despite the stiffness of the translator's prose, we can, if we choose, easily think of Wooden Leg and his father in the sweat lodge in relation, say, to their contemporaries, Huck Finn and his Pap in their dark interior. The point, of course, would not be to sentimentalize Indian wholeness and harmony in comparison to white fragmentation (Huck's experience of his parent, I take it, is probably not historically and culturally typical, although this might, of course, be interesting to know—for a certain kind of critic, at any rate) but to compare aspects of the formation of subjects in specific historical and cultural settings. The reader of Wooden Leg's autobiography, too, would have a different sense of the ending of Twain's novel inasmuch as he would know well that the territories for which Huck lights out were hardly "virgin land" but the home of the Cheyenne, among others, and with the coming of the whites soon to be, in Francis Jenning's phrase, "widowed land" (15).
For the criticism of Native American fiction and poetry, production of which has been rich of late, the humanist (ethno)historicism Pearce suggests, a compound of history of ideas, psychohistory, and psychological anthropology, has many possibilities—provided, to be sure, detailed attention is paid to the material context of culture-and-personality, to the objective conditions of possibility defining human agency. This, for any study of Indian literature, must include such things as historical alterations in patterns of production and exchange: the Reservation system; the Allotment experiment; attempts to impose compulsory, monolingual education; and then the whole dreary ledgerbook of statistics on the incidence of tuberculosis, alcoholism, unemployment, and sui-
cide. This is not at all to suggest that contemporary Native Americans do nothing but languish; quite to the contrary, expressively, at least, on the reservation or off, there is great vitality. Let me offer two brief examples.
Here is part of a poem by Wendy Rose, from a fine book called The Halfbreed Chronicles (1985):
What My Father Said
when lightning danced
west of the mesa
was this: that for us
among the asphalt
and black shadowed structures
of the city
there is some question
about living our lives
and not melting back
to remembered stone, to adobe, to grass,
innocent and loud, sweetly singing
in the summer rain
and rolling clouds.
Begin, he said, by giving back . . .
The poem ends,
come and eat
come and eat
live in my tongue
This recalls the last lines of Robert Frost's "Directive," for example, and one may wonder how the imperative to "drink and be whole" with which it concludes may compare to that
of the speaker's father in Rose's poem to "eat," to "live," and to "forget . . . hunger." Frost's little poem "The Vanishing Red" might be remembered, too, in this context. Its shrewd recognition that "Indian-hating" can take the form of an insistence upon Indian silence, its presentation of Native people as those who have "no right to be heard from," can illuminate the various forms of Native speech in Rose's work—and that of many contemporary Indian poets. I offer these highly subjective intuitions not as adequate analysis but, rather, as merely indicating the possibility of another perspective on one canonical poet—as the brief passage from Wooden Leg may indicate a perspective on a canonical novelist.
Let me offer just one more contemporary example. I want to try to convey something of the quality of Ralph Salisbury's highly condensed and complex story, "The Sonofabitch and the Dog." I should perhaps make the point explicit that in choosing to cite Rose and Salisbury, I am intentionally avoiding examples from Louise Erdrich, N. Scott Momaday, and Leslie Marmon Silko, currently, as it seems to me, the most visible Native American writers. The intention is not in any way to devalue these authors' works, but to suggest instead that there are many others worthy of consideration besides the most visible.
Salisbury's story is the first-person narrative of a teenaged Indian soldier, a commando in an unspecified American war—very likely the Korean conflict in which Salisbury himself served: but the references to helicopters may bring Vietnam to mind. The Indian commando winds up in an unusual alliance with a dog named Commando, as both of them engage in efforts to survive in a white world that often seems far more threatening than the war itself. What I take as the climactic moment of this extraordinary piece occurs when the narrator
was only two days back from my first behind-the-lines mission. I'd killed seven people. . . . All three of my buddies had been blown up by the same land mine. (184)
Then, the dog speaks to him:
Commando said [,] "You're an Indian. You understand the earth. You understand animals. You understand what I'm saying, and you understand that I'm not just bullshitting you."
I was pretty sober in the chill night, and I thought Commando was correct in what he was saying, but I'd never heard a dog talk White language before. I'd been hearing my dead buddies' voices. And I wasn't sure in just what way I was hearing the dog. And it didn't seem right to answer back in an ordinary way.
"How old are you?" Commando asked.
"Do you want to be eighteen?" (184)
Commando informs the narrator that his choice is between being "proud and stupid and dead, or humble and freaked-out and alive" (185). Choosing the second alternative, the narrator
[n]ext day . . . went to the only piece of earth that wasn't covered with concrete or grass cut short like a military-haircut—the firing range.
Spreadeagle in the sacred way, I gazed at shaggy white buffalo clouds and prayed while stones under me softened. (185)
He stays out there through target practice, as bullets pass over him. Then "For seven days I fasted. For seven days I prayed." After a visit to the base psychiatrist, he is made chaplain's assistant, although he is no Christian. The story concludes, "I do what I'm told. I remember every detail. And by now I'm eighteen" (187). From a thematic point of view, it seems to
me this story provides a striking allegory of the historical experience of most Native American tribes, what I will later call the tribal allegory . I will reserve further discussion of this point for the final chapter. Here, I will only repeat that we have in Salisbury's story (as in other contemporary Native American fiction) a perspective on our putatively "common" American experience that we are not likely to have from non-Indian sources. To understand better what Native American artists know and think and feel, personally and historically in their material situation; to understand better how a certain traditional commitment to speaking or singing such knowledge and thought and emotion has adapted itself to writing, may well provoke a rereading, even a reevaluating of other American writers, both older, canonical authors and newer authors on the verge of canonical status. I cannot specify just how such rereading and reevaluating might actually proceed beyond the lines—thematic and technical—already indicated. I would, nonetheless, reaffirm that such rereading and reevaluating must be the consequence of the inclusion of Native American writers (as also of Afro-American writers, and women of all groups).
Yet, given the relationship between critical perspectives and the composition of the canon, the chances for Native literatures to position themselves within, or at least at the margins of the canon of American literature are poor should a formalist paradigm persist.
For there are unmistakable connections between critical paradigms and canon formation. New Critical formalism, as I have said, took the supposed thinness of American culture and society with reference to Europe as a supplementary justification for its practice of an "intrinsic" critique. It did this in
the interest of a conservative political program that it sought to further—covertly—by divorcing literary studies from social and political questions. Curiously (or maybe not so curiously), history returns upon itself as we find J. Hillis Miller, among the foremost American deconstructionists, in his 1986 Presidential Address to the Modern Language Association, citing none other than James in the interest of authorizing the particular formalism of his choice. Miller says that what we have of culture here in America "is recent, datable, relatively simple. It has not been accumulating long enough to be thick on the ground" (J. H. Miller, 287), and so it would seem, for all the politeness initially offered in his address toward cultural critique and historicist criticism, it is formalism that must will out. Who could expect otherwise, if we must indeed go on evaluating American culture in regular, direct, and monolithic comparison to that of the Europe from
which, in its dominant forms, at least, it derives. Thus, Miller can imperially announce, "I affirm that the future of literary studies depends on maintaining and developing that rhetorical reading which today is most commonly called 'deconstruction'" (J. H. Miller, 289).
Miller's is not only an elitist position, blind, as I have already noted, to the history that is thick on the ground here as nowhere else, but also a position that is sadly out of date. For, although Miller recalls Gertrude Stein's comment about Oakland, California, that place where there is no there there, he forgets her remark that America is the oldest country in the modern world, having occupied it the longest. For it is only in regard to an older "higher" culture that America can now be considered a major importer from anywhere. Miller's choice of the Orange County (California) Performing Arts Center as his "allegorical emblem" of American culture offers an extremely narrow illustration: it is as if one chose to watch only PBS to gauge what the actual living present and possible future of television might be. In fact, it would rather seem to be the case, for better or worse, that America is the world's major exporter of culture, and that contemporary Europe is much concerned to see whether it has yet managed to produce cultural goods as slick, as efficiently commodified, as readily disposable as what is Made in the U.S.A.
Past historicisms, I have said, while worrying the thick and thin, did not much question the metaphor. But of course it is possible to take a historicist position for which history however "recent, [and] datable" can never be so "relatively simple" as Miller, following James, makes it, for the simple reason that America never could be defined adequately in terms of absence alone. Rather, it is a dialectic of presence/absence—of difference—to which we must turn. No State? No England,
to be sure; still, the Iroquois Confederacy about the time of our Revolution was arguably as complex a political entity as the Papal confederacy, complex enough to influence the framers of our Constitution. There even was a king here, whose English name was King Phillip. No church? Decidedly there were deep-rooted "heathen practices" everywhere—and these of such power that Christian "praying Indians" were never so many as the missionaries hoped. A sporting class assuredly there was not, but brilliant players of what we call Lacrosse, and some of the finest long-distance runners of their day. Abundant descriptions suggest that the Comanches, among others, might well have taught Ascot riders a thing or two about horsemanship. No ruins? well, there were the great mounds of Mississippi, and the Hohokam (Pima-Papago, huhugkam, "the finished ones") prehistoric remains in the Southwest. And of course there were and there still are the Native literatures, the creation stories and the stories of Coyote, and Hare, and Raven, the ritual and personal songs, the indigenous "autobiographical" forms like the coup story—on which, to be sure, some Native American autobiographies, those of Yellow Wolf, Plenty-Coups, and Joseph White Bull, among others, depend. Is there not here American history? is none of this to bear upon our understanding of American literature? Perhaps not, if a formalist criticism prevails—nor if only a narrow new historicism does.
In the heyday of formalism, both D. H. Lawrence (in his Studies in Classic American Literature ) and also William Carlos Williams (whose mention of the Indians in In the American Grain  is cited but instantly abandoned by Hillis Miller) recognized the need for Americans to come to terms with the indigenous peoples and cultures they had subordinated but not quite destroyed. Native American people and
their cultural productions have not disappeared, but, in the wake of New Critical and deconstructive dominance, and a certain historicist narrowness, they are probably not familiar to most students of American literature. It is my hope that some form of materially situated historicism will take upon itself the task of seeing what is actually there—both subjectively and objectively—for a broadly defined American literature. This criticism, surely not far off, will also attend carefully to Native American literary expression, which, as Whitman so clearly saw, is distinctively important here .