Two critics of American literature, one British and one American, join forces in this work to offer a late 20th century rediscovery of American literature. Adopting a modernist/postmodernist stance, Malcolm Bradbury and Richard Ruland address questions of literary and cultural nationalism. They demonstrate that since the 17th century, American writing has reflected the political and historical climate of its time, and how in turn, these works have, themselves, helped to define America's cultural and social parameters. They argue that American literature has always been essentially modern and illustrate this opinion by reference to a range of texts from Poe and Melville, through Fitzgerald and Pound, to Arthur Miller, Joyce Carol Oates and Toni Morrison. The book is intended to be of interest to students and teachers of literature and American cultural studies.