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Among the many comments received about the early selections collected in The Heath Anthology of American Literature the plaintive comment even from early Americanists about the number of so-called new writers represented there strikes me as most honest and forthright Indeed more than a few colleagues in the field have privately admitted that getting over the feeling of stupidity or ignorance is perhaps the biggest hurdle to preparing to teach these early writings This is a feeling shared by the Heath editors We feel insecure about seeing names of so many writers about whom we learned nothing when in graduate school and about whom weve learned little since We remain constrained by our former experiences of success in an academic culture that accepted our white dominant texts our discursive structures of proto-nationalism our defensive insistence upon aesthetics and literariness To some extent it might be said that in attempting to reconstruct ourselves as teachers of multicultural early American materials we are metaphorically placed in the position of being others in our own land of having to learn a language and thus a way of thinking that is different new and for many faculty alienating of our former selves My hope is that this feeling of being colonized by newer forms of academic discourse and cultural interest will tend toward gradual and useful shifts in our practices as teachers and scholars in the field If we specialists find ourselves somewhat baffled by the materials now available to us we have only a partial sense of how our students feel when they face texts that arent from the twentieth century Fortunately teachers who use The Heath Anthology have a great number of texts and nearly twice the number of pages on early materials when compared to any other two-volume anthology from which to choose selections for reading Indeed when teaching these materials we are faced with the prospect of making our own anthology our own canon
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