Author Kevin J. Hayes has been very busy writing American Literature: A Very Short Introduction, but he needs your help. Find out what you can do below.
When I was studying for my exams at the University of Delaware, I found little books about big subjects to be the most useful study aids. Despite the usefulness and convenience of these little books, I still resented the time studying took. I was eager to finish my degree and start my career, to stop reading the work of others and start writing work of my own. As part of the studying process, I drafted a brief history of American literature. After passing all my exams, I realized my draft history had been a way to force myself to keep studying. I set it aside without a second thought, graduated, and moved to Oklahoma. The draft history disappeared along the way.
Upon completing my forthcoming biography, The Road to Monticello: The Life and Mind of Thomas Jefferson, I wanted to work on a tiny little book next, so I started writing American Literature: A Very Short Introduction. The book will consist of eight chapters and will be organized in a rough chronological manner. Each chapter will concentrate on a particular literary genre and will have a central focus, too. For example, Chapter 7, the first chapter I drafted, presents an overview of the novel refracted through the idea of the “great American novel.”
I’m working on Chapter 2 now. It will trace the story of American travel writing from colonial times through the twentieth century. Though travel writing constitutes some of the best writing in the colonial American period (see Daniel Royot’s fine chapter in the recent Oxford Handbook to Early American Literature), literary histories have typically slighted subsequent travel writings in favor of belletristic literature. Deciding which travel writers to include has proven to be more difficult than I initially anticipated. I need help. Obviously, I do not have room to discuss too many travel narratives in such a short book. Here’s my question: which travel writers should I include?