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Extra resources for Disforming the American Canon: African-Arabic Slave Narratives and the Vernacular (Disforming the American Canon : African-Arabic Slave Narratives and the Vernacular)

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At the same time that the students were demanding instrumental knowledge, these young professors sought to achieve the professionalization of knowledge as Wissenschaft: the rigorously defined methodological production of knowledge. Such professionalization was viewed as the means to achieving the complete independence of teaching (lehrfreiheit) and study (lernfreiheit) from ideological constraint. Ticknor was perhaps most notable among the group of New American professors. On his appointment as the Smith Professor of French and Spanish Languages at Harvard in 1819 (the first endowed professorship in modern languages in the United States), he struggled to enact curriculum reforms aimed at realizing an American university analogous to those in Germany.

And, if this is so, then isn't the rug pulled from underneath the Romantic conception of literary history as reflecting the historical development of American consciousness, recognizing itself through sequential periods of expression finally culminating in totality and the closure of history? The careful elaboration that these questions require is the principal work of the first part of this book. What is important at this moment, though, are the implications of the text's loss of ontological status.

The Yale school begins that delineation of its canon with the slave narratives, maintaining that the slave narrative was the archetype for all subsequent Afro-American literary forms. To be sure, the idea that there is a particularly Afro-American literary tradition and criticism whose genesis can be found in the narrative strategies of slave narrative was not altogether new. 23 For Bontemps, Afro-American cultural "experience" was known through its INTRODUCTION 19 canonical texts, which, when taken together, will to the Afro-American literary tradition what is regarded as its received textual experience.

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