What is American Literature?
Oxford University Press, £19.99 hb, 209 pp
Ilan Stavans is a professor of Humanities at Amherst College in Massachusetts, a native of Mexico City who is now a distinguished scholar of Latin American and Hispanic cultures. Here he turns his outsider’s gaze on the large question ‘What is American Literature?’ to productive if rather erratic effect. This is a strange book, one that purports to achieve an Olympian overview of an established academic field, but one whose most effective contributions manifest themselves in casual, digressive comments on particular authors and contemporary cultural issues.