Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Improvised Europeans: American Literary Expatriates In London

Alex Zwerdling's Improvised Europeans: American Literary Expatriates In London follows the lives and exploits of four Americans: Henry Adams, Henry James, Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. Part fourfold biography, part history, part literary criticism, the work tells the story of changing American demographics and shifts in the trans-Atlantic balance of power, and what this in turn meant for Anglophonic culture. Zwerdling explores changing notions of identity and why these four Americans sought, and received, a kind of cultural refuge in Great Britain.

I've not yet finished reading the book, and therefore can only give a provisional recommendation, but the subject is interesting, the writing enjoyable and the questions academically relevant. Zwerdling's consideration of social identity touches upon themes that are quite vogue in academia today, and therefore puts him in touch with that ongoing dialog; however, his treatment of the matter is sober and thoughtful, unlike many politicized and inane attempts at scholarship in this field.

This book has also appeared under the title Improvised Europeans: American Literary Expatriates and the Siege of London.
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