Re-Producing a Nationalist Literature in the Age of Globalization: Reading (Im)migration in Julia Alvarez’s How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
Abstract

This essay examines the contradictions that develop within American literary studies as critics attempt to globalize the field. More specifically, the essay looks at immigrant/ethnic literary studies and how the concepts of immigration and immigrant literatures assist American literary studies in re-constructing a nationalist paradigm, even while attempting to "globalize" or update disciplinary practices. Via a reading of critical scholarship on Julia Alvarez's How the García Girls Lost their Accents, the essay analyzes the ways in which critics, driven by "globalization" anxiety, read the text in ways that recontain the global aspects of immigration within a dominant, US nationalist paradigm. Such readings work precisely to maintain the category of a US ethnic/immigrant literature. While the idea of immigration has long helped the United States to produce a national imaginary, and has also served as one of the major organizing categories for US literary studies, the concept is now shifted in order to accomplish the same purpose in the "new era" of globalization. The essay also offers possible ways in which to read both Alvarez's novel and others like it—ways that might better speak to historical, cultural and socio-economic conditions in which they are produced.


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