Study Guide

Multiculturalism and Literature

Multiculturalism and Literature Summary

Overview (Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

Sociologists first used the phrase “the melting pot” to describe the inclusion of many cultures in one homogeneous group. The melting pot theory, however, was soon challenged as incorrect as a description and as biased in its intent. Various groups decided that they wanted to maintain, rather than diminish, their cultural distinctions. African American and Native American writers in the 1960’s and after especially rejected the idea that the United States and Canada were or should be melting-pot societies. Their rejection was reinforced by immigrants or children of immigrants in the 1980’s and 1990’s who produced literature that is critical of the theory. A major objection is that melting implies the merging of cultures and the loss of differences. Another objection is that the melting pot’s idea of merging into one culture does not allow for the creation of new social systems to which all contribute. Instead, the melting-pot model continues the dominance of white, Anglo culture over smaller cultural groups, thus submerging differences. In the cases of distinct cultural groups and immigrant communities, merging into one culture means the loss of one’s unique history, heritage, and cultural products.

A response to this concern has been pluralism. Pluralism is descriptive of differences but does not necessarily connote anything positive in difference. The word “multiculturalism” is often used by scholars and popular writers to indicate that...

(The entire section is 504 words.)