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Catalog Archive / Fall 2022

The Divided States
Unraveling National Identities in the Twenty-First Century
Edited by Laura J. Beard and Ricia Anne Chansky

Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography
William L. Andrews, Series Editor

“Timely, relevant, and innovative. The editors have assembled a powerful chorus of established and emerging voices of auto/biography critics and practitioners of life writing to make a compelling argument for rewriting the nation’s imaginary. By centering subjects who have been marginalized, erased, and excluded from traditional national myths, this urgently needed collection has the potential to become a canonical text.”
—Eva C. Karpinski, York University

Who counts as the “We the People” of our contemporary moment?

What is an “American” identity? The tension between populism and pluralism, between homogeneity and heterogeneity, has marked the United States since its inception. In The Divided States, leading scholars and critics argue that the US is, and has always been, a site where multiple national identities intersect in productive and challenging ways. Scrutinizing conflicting nationalisms and national identities, the authors ask, Whose stories get told and whose do not? Who or what promotes the idea of a unified national identity in the United States? How is the notion of a unified national identity disrupted? What myths and stories bind the US together? How representative are these stories? What are the counternarratives? And, if the idea of national homogeneity is a fallacy, what does tie us together as a nation?

Working across auto/biography studies, American studies, and human geography—all of which deal with the current interest in competing narratives, “alternative facts,” and accountability—the essays engage in and contribute to critical conversations in classrooms, scholarship, and the public sphere. The authors draw from a variety of fields, including anthropology; class analysis; critical race theory; diasporic, refugee, and immigration studies; disability studies; gender studies; graphic and comix studies; Indigenous studies; linguistics; literary studies; sociology; and visual culture. And the genres under scrutiny include diary, epistolary communication, digital narratives, graphic narratives, literary narratives, medical narratives, memoir, oral history, and testimony.

This fresh and theoretically engaged volume will be relevant to anyone interested in the multiplicity of voices that make up the US national narrative.


Laura J. Beard is an associate vice president of research at the University of Alberta.

Ricia Anne Chansky is a professor of literature at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez, coeditor of the scholarly journal a/b: Auto/Biography Studies, and editor of the Routledge Auto/Biography Studies book series.




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Table of Contents


Table of Contents


Introduction: Contested Lives, Contesting Lives
Ricia Anne Chansky and Laura J. Beard

Section One: Tracing Patterns
Dakobijigaade mii miinawaa Aaba’igaade Gichimookomaanakiing: Tied and Untied in America
Margaret Noodin
Negotiating National Identity and Well-Being in US
Black Women’s Diaries
Joycelyn K. Moody
The Legacy of Conquest in Comics: Texas History
Movies, Jack Jackson, and Revision
Daniel Worden
“Strange Juxtapositions”: Elliott Erwitt’s Visual
Diary of Cold War America
Steven Hoelscher
We Have Never Been a Nation of Immigrants: Refugee Temporality as American Identity
Elizabeth Rodrigues
“A small flashlight in a great dark space”: Elizabeth Warren, Autobiography, and Populism Rachael McLennan
Indians in Monumental Places: Heid Erdich and Jeff Thomas
Laura J. Beard
Angela Ards
Archival Intervention: Surviving the “Savage Splintering” in Deborah Miranda’s Bad Indians Hertha D. Sweet Wong

Section Two: Facing Forward
Moving Beyond the Urban/Rural Divide in Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home
Katie Hogan
White Privilege and J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy
Stephanie Li
Getting Schooled: Responses to Education as Neoliberal Identity-Formation in US Life Narratives
Megan Brown
Disabling Birth: Prognostic Certainty and the Gestating Citizen of the Contemporary Midwifery Movement
Ally Day

Days of Reckoning: Prospects for Life Narrative 2020
Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson



Also in the Series

Whispers of Cruel Wrongs: Cover showing a line drawing of Louisa Jacobs atop a manilla background, with cropped letters and envelopes lingering on the edges of the page.

Whispers of Cruel Wrongs
The Correspondence of Louisa Jacobs and Her Circle, 1879–1911
Edited by Mary Maillard


Reading African American Autobiography
Twenty-First-Century Contexts and Criticism
Edited by Eric D. Lamore

The Divided States: a blue cover with a large red backslash across the page. The title text is written in contrasting white sarif font across the majority of the cover.

Larger images

January 2023
LC: 2021061654
360 pp. 6 x 9
36 b/w illus.

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Printed Case $39.95 S
ISBN 9780299338800
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