Foreign Literatures in America (FLA) is a project devoted to the recovery and understanding of the significance of foreign authored literary works, as well as immigrant authored literary works, in the U.S. throughout U.S. history.
Our principal mission is to challenge conceptions of “American literature” that turn upon the American citizenship of an author—when historically it is clear that foreign authored works, as well as works by immigrant authors who wrote in many languages and were not citizens of the United States, have long profoundly constituted an important part of the literatures and cultures of the U.S.
This project thus seeks to offer many fresh opportunities to globalize the terms through which we understand American literature and American culture, both of these domains rediscovered as richly constituted and interpenetrated by global texts, concerns, contexts, voices.
FLA pursues these goals by offering various means of studying the reception of foreign and immigrant authored literary works in the U.S., in interdisciplinary terms that encompass literature, culture, politics, history, and international relations.
Archival resources: The project offers extensive archival resources of primary reception materials (i.e., accounts of “foreign” authors and works in newspapers, magazines, images, rarer archives, etc.) accessible in themselves, browsable in useful arrays, and searchable and subject to certain forms of quantitative analysis by nuanced means.
Laboratories: The project develops laboratories based on cutting edge tools of machine learning drawn from recent digital humanities innovations in the areas of topics modeling and sentiment analysis; these laboratories allow users to mine large databases of “big data” already assembled for meaningful patterns and insights of literary reception.
Book review pages: The project assembles its own smaller databases of book review pages from various U.S. newspapers and periodicals over time (beginning with the New York Times, The New Republic, and The Crisis), subject not only to the kind of searching and quantitative techniques of analysis found in the archival and laboratory sections, but also to comparative quantification of the most frequently mentioned authors in user-determined time frames and periodical ranges—(these book review pages thus become a powerful means of recovering forgotten literary and cultural history).
Collective Forum: FLA is a committedly and internationally a collective forum for research, innovation, discussion, and collaboration, one in which blogging and various forms of collective interchange, suggestion, and crowd-sourced cooperation are facilitated—both as concerns all the research functions described above, and also toward innovation of further functions FLA could undertake.
Beyond the general aims and specific outcomes noted above, there are two specific aims of this project that should be emphasized. First, in the shorter term, rather than do full comprehensive justice to any one of the functions described above, we are really trying to “open the door” with respect to them all, encouraging different teams of faculty and student researches both at the University of Maryland and around the country and world to develop dynamic possibilities for this project.
Anyone interested in the kind of scholarly and analytic priorities foregrounded by the project is most warmly encouraged to contact us with your ideas and to join our project. The second point is more long term: though this project does aim to offer the means for a wholesale remapping of American literary studies (what this domain consists of, which voices and texts, why they are important), it is also a project of significance not only among university and academic research communities but also in larger social domains of education as well—including not only secondary schools and undergraduate pedagogy and also those interested in non-traditional education forms in our culture and society generally.
This general goal of making a productive globalizing contribution to American education in the broadest possible terms is an ultimate aspiration for this project.
The technological infrastructure for this project has been supported in part by a generous grant from Amazon Web Services.