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Introduction A mérico Paredes (1915–1999) became and continues to be the foremost U.S. literary and cultural studies intellectual of Mexican ancestry, a figure who focused his creative and scholarly efforts largely on the cultures and peoples of what he called “Greater Mexico.” By that he meant “all of the area inhabited by people of Mexican culture—not only within the present limits of the Republic of Mexico but in the United States as well—in a cultural rather than a political sense” (Paredes 1976: xiv). He was also one of the primary founders of the institutional academic enterprise called “Mexican-American studies.”1 It is therefore not surprising that his work has been the subject of much scholarly commentary, most focused on his fiction and mostly of article length, but not entirely. In what follows I offer an extended analytical treatment of most of Paredes’s work—scholarly and creative—and thus join three other booklength assessments (López-Morín 2006; Saldívar 2006; Medrano 2010).2 Serious intellectual and social issues surrounding Paredes’s or any intellectual ’s work are not automatically settled forever when the scholarly growth reaches any particular plateau, especially when one is in honest and serious disagreement and debate with some or even all of that scholarship, or notices that certain issues have not been fully addressed. Moreover, a leading critic of Mexican-American cultural studies, the late Juan BruceNovoa , once suggested that, as of 1994, all commentary about Paredes was uncritically reverential toward this body of work and its author (BruceNovoa 1994: 234–237). If true, I offer the present work as a continuing corrective intervention in Paredes studies.3 I began this book in the early 1970s as Américo Paredes’s graduate student, specifically Chapter 3, and gradually added to it as more of Paredes’s early and forgotten work was re- « 2 » Américo Paredes trieved and published in the 1990s, until I began to see the coherence of a possible book. While some of what follows in these chapters will no doubt show my admiration of Paredes and much of his work, other parts of it will clearly demonstrate my critical discomfort with certain other aspects of his writing. My general thesis is that previous treatments of his work have not closely examined many of the specific contributions, but also the contradictions , in the Paredes corpus. In each chapter that follows I hope to show just such previously unrecognized or underappreciated contributions, as well as contradictions. The accessibility of academic writing to a more general though intellectually literate public has become much more important for me in the later stages of my career, and I have been trying to make amends with my last book (1998) and now perhaps this one. As part of that accessibility, I have tried to lend sharp and, I hope, clear focus and critical argument to some specific key issues, even as these foci broach larger questions in such areas as literary ethics, scholarly genealogies, folklore, transnationalism , and cultural studies that were also of concern to Américo Paredes, or that his work raised, and that have either been ignored or not specifically addressed in the extant scholarship on his work. Since I am interested in focusing on these specific issues, I have not addressed other parts of his work that seem to me not as central to my concerns, or I have done so only tangentially. As I discuss the specifics of the chapters that follow, my preliminary introduction to these areas and genres will also take on a chronological structure that corresponds to different significant periods in Paredes’s life; these also occur in the context of a Mexican-American social history, with some emphasis onTexas, where he spent most of his life.These periods and some of his biography have been well known to Paredes scholars and even to the lay public at least since 1980, when I offered the first public overall interpretation of his life and work, also the subject of later work (Limón 1992, 1994). Nevertheless, for new and, especially, younger readers, a brief rehearsal of these historical and biographical periods may be helpful, together with my delineation of the specific concern of each chapter. For a far more detailed biography than is warranted here, I refer the reader to Saldívar, López-Morín, and Medrano, and for more detail on the historical context, the reader may consult a host of excellent...


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