In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Hemispheric Studies

  • Introduction

Literary and Critical Theory Hemispheric Studies
Renee Hudson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0056


Recently, hemispheric studies has gained traction within American studies scholarship. The field tends to be dominated by literary studies, but a number of scholars have considered what a hemispheric framework means for the field more broadly, pointing to how it can reinvigorate American studies by highlighting transnational connections and decentering the United States. However, many scholars remain cautious, noting that, much like pan-Americanism before, it, hemispheric studies can also be a tool of empire. That said, as Canadian studies scholars point out, while hemispheric studies does have the potential to reinforce US dominance, including Canada, it can offer a way to resist such dominance as it offers useful alternatives and possibilities to those offered by the United States. Indeed, looking at hemispheric studies within other spatial frameworks, such as Canada, but also from the perspective of the older East/West paradigm, unsettles previously held ideas about the Americas and illuminates new avenues for investigation and inquiry. As this article demonstrates, while hemispheric studies is the result of renewed interest in the field, there are earlier hemispheric frameworks, such as pan-Americanism, that need to be historicized. Further, hemispheric studies can further enrich how scholars approach comparative colonialisms, print culture, and performance.

General Overview

A number of key essays, special issues, and anthologies have helped develop the field of hemispheric studies in broad strokes. Key Essays offer a range of material, from foundational essays that shaped hemispheric studies from the 19th and early 20th centuries to more recent reconsiderations of the field that call for renewed interest in the field while staying attentive to its potential to enforce US hegemony. Special Issues have proved to be particularly fertile ground for examining the field as they situate ongoing debates about hemispheric studies, such as the need to include both Latin America and Canada as well as work in languages other than English, primarily from a literary perspective. Numerous anthologies, often building on these special issues, return to key questions of the field such as how to decenter the United States and highlight marginalized voices. Further, more recent Anthologies have begun to look at cultural productions in the Americas more broadly, rather than solely within the realm of literary studies.

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