American Civilization

Topics: American studies, Henry Nash Smith, Johns Hopkins University Pages: 4 (1328 words) Published: April 27, 2013
Ryan Fitzpatrick

February 1, 2013

Method, Theory and Research
History is made by those who write it, so it is unsurprising that bias is present in historical descriptions, interpretations, and explanations. However, few people realize the extent and severity of the bias commonly showed in historical texts, and avoiding cultural bias is often difficult to identify, and much less correct. Though because historians must draw conclusions from incomplete or conflicting evidence, drawing inferences is essential to their processes. Historians often misrepresent, omit, or unfairly compile facts. A brief summary description can fairly represent the gist of the historical essence of a person or event. Accounts which are written from a specific perspective (feminist, nationalist, religious, scientific, artistic) are more likely to uncover more relevant evidence in that area but also to overestimate the importance of such evidence. In these areas, no objective standard of what is correct. Nowadays scholars need more of a detailed description of events due to the lack of cultural familiarity of the events. That draws us to an interesting question asked by Henry Nash Smith in his essay Can “American Studies” Develop a Method? A far from rhetorical question asked by one of the, if not the most influential person in developing a method for American Studies in 1940 by receiving the first Ph.D in the field from Harvard. Smith and his myth-symbol theory were proved a major event in the theoretical development of American Studies as an interdisciplinary form of study. Smith’s publication of Virgin Land in 1950 has inspired scholars to write a series of books that have attempted to relate conciseness to society in American Studies. Another theoretical development in American Studies was when Bruce Kuklick, in his essay Myth and Symbol in American Studies, he contrasts Henry Nash Smith and Leo Marx in referring to Smith’s essay, Virgin Land when he quotes Smith urging,...
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