This essay locates the intellectual origins of comparative American studies in Herbert Eugene Bolton's “The Epic of Greater America” (1931). Bolton argued for a hemispheric approach to the study of history and laid the groundwork for a comparative practice with plural perspectives and points of entry. His legacy is not without controversy. In the 1950s the distinguished Mexican historiographer, Edmundo O'Gorman, engaged Bolton in heated debate regarding their different conceptions of the “invention of America,” to use O'Gorman's phrase. Nonetheless, Bolton's work underpins the current practice of Latin American history, U.S./Mexico border studies (particularly as developed by U.S. academics), and, since the 1980s, comparative American studies. The essay concludes by outlining a Boltonian approach to teaching the literature and history of the Americas and calling for a return to a comparative model that foregrounds languages and literary histories.

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