Though neither of these books explicitly frames itself as such, when read together they provide an occasion to ponder the future of American studies in the context of the current interrelated crises of the academic humanities and the US constitutional order. For what purposes do we read American literature, and how do our modes of reading impact our social institutions, our public communication, and our reckoning with matters of existential political import? How do we conceptualize the American past, and how might a heightened engrossment with national history inform our efforts as citizens in the contemporary sociopolitical system and as agents and stakeholders in the nation’s future? These are the kinds of questions that arise from reading Emre’s and Rymsza-Pawlowska’s absorbing books while abiding regular lamentations from the dean’s office about declining English and History enrollments, and at the same time confronting...

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