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Numer: 17527
Dział: Języki obce

Stereotypes in American Literature

Stereotypes and American Ethnic Literature.

Stereotypes dominate human life especially in multiethnic countries, where they transformed into prejudices and then into acts of racism. The first part of this chapter explains the meaning and origins of stereotypes. It shows how stereotypical thinking influences life of individual in the society and explains connections between stereotypes and racial prejudices.
This chapter is also devoted to the problems of race and ethic stereotypes in American Literature reflected in the writing that illustrates the lives of people of non- Anglo ethnicity, their dilemmas and traumatic experiences. It compares the literature of Native Americans, Jews, and Afro-Americans that is influenced by history, colonialism, genocide, displacement and exile.

I. Stereotypes, Prejudices and Racism.
In everyday life people are rarely aware of the fact that opinions and views they express are mostly the result of stereotyping. For the majority of people the definition of stereotype has only negative meaning, they try to reject those stereotypes and deny seeing others through stereotypes. Nevertheless, creating stereotypes is a physical need. In 1922 W. Lippman constructed the definition of stereotype as pictures in ours heads, which means that “the stereotype is result of subjective discovery processes based on knowledge concerning outside world.”1 In other words, stereotype is a generalization about a group of people or individual. People build up stereotypes when they are incapable of acquiring all of the information needed to make a reasonable judgment about an individual.
On the one hand, stereotypes exist in mind of individual, but on the other hand they are an integral part of social group, for people of the same culture. According to Marceae generating stereotypes begins when some people are considered as a group, as a whole, thus making them distinctive from other groups, which leads to categorization of individuals into different groups that are perceived in mutual relations of, for example, women and men, republicans and democrats.”2. The stereotype itself develops when the social perceiver acquires knowledge which is the basis of many beliefs about particular group, giving possibility to make general characterization of this group. McGarty and Yzerbyt stated that “stereotypes aid explanation by saving time and effort. In particular, treating people as group members saves energy because it means that we can ignore all of diverse and detailed information that is associated with individuals.”3
Ethnic and race groups differ from each other by their appearance just as women and men, young and old, attractive and unattractive, chunky and slim. Outer look is the first considered when it comes to describing strangers or friends. What is more, there is a tendency for using description of appearance even when telling about feelings concerning particular person. Outer look is the main aspect in creating social and racial stereotypes. Many people evaluate character taking into consideration only exterior. Concepts about people with such kind of features lead to negative and extreme stereotypes about minority groups. According to McGarty and Yzerbyt:
“stereotypes attract little attention when they are not shared by many people. If any individual had a very different stereotypes would be of little interest. Shared stereotypes, for example, are useful for predicting and understanding the behaviour of members of one group towards another. If stereotypes are primarily interesting because they are shared it becomes important to understand the behaviour of members of one group towards another.”4

Although stereotypes are mostly negative, they may have motivating influence on individual. Marceae claims that human beings are motivated by their self-image that invoke negative stereotypes of others to feel better. People may be motivated to inhibit as well as magnify stereotypes, depending on whether the stereotypes harm or benefit the self. Moreover, the sense of belonging to the group influences human confidence and motivation for achieving and supporting identity in society. So that social identity is the source of motivation to entitle positive features of one’s own group and negative features to others.5 In other place, he claims that society has been divided into communities and unities, which fulfill their members’ needs. In those circles stereotyping will progress more aggressively, because stereotypes of those groups will be more characteristic and at the same time will serve as motivating and integrating element, which will make groups unique.6 So that an individual can be an anti-Semite and a racist in a society where such trait is intolerable and in the same time feel deep connection to people with the same beliefs. However, the right to unite gives people possibility to gather and manifest which leads to blur boundaries of stereotyping and discrimination. Quality and intensity of stereotypes in certain parties decide about social consequences.
Marceae, Stangor and Hewstone stated that stereotypes are connected with prejudices that are consequence of stereotyping process, stereotypes are involuntarily complied to stereotyped group. Stereotypes are part of tradition of a society and every member of society is bound to learn stereotypes of the major ethnic groups.7 Rejection of stereotype leads to conflict between stereotype established in human mind and personal belief. Parents are the first and the largest source of information about another social groups, however, peers and other members of the social group also have great influence on creating stereotypes in minds of young people. The child learns the most through observation, listening and imitation of offensive slogans and degrading jokes which cause burst of laughter, obedience of the family rules , for example, prohibition of playing with “strange” children, listening why the discriminated people deserved such treatment. After parents, leading source of stereotypes rooted in culture is TV, which very often does not show stereotypes directly, but the images of groups demonstrated are directly connected to minority groups.
McGarty and Yzerbyt suggest two ways in which stereotypes can appear. The first is that stereotypes are the products of “actual differences between groups. This is famous kernel of truth hypothesis. Actual differences between groups may be detected and then become accentuated or magnified.” The second way is that:
“stereotypes may be self-fulfilling prophecies. Stereotypes may affect the ways that members of one group treat another and that in turn may lead to changes in behavior of the stereotypes group. Perceiving the members of some group as violent and dangerous may, for example, lead to hostile treatment of that group which may in turn lead to a violent response from the stereotyped group.”8

Another important subject is the problem of national stereotypes. There is a variety of common national stereotypes about the inhabitants of various nations. Such stereotypes are usually prejudicial and often ill-informed, and overlap with ethnic or racial stereotypes. National stereotypes, being instantly recognized, play an important role in advertising and comedy. They also play a more serious role in provoking and maintaining conflict and war between nations. Stereotype present some information about a particular culture, but they can not portray individual, and because of that stereotypes of ethnic groups are dangerous, they are the base for forming prejudice, discrimination, persecution, or even genocide.
Among most negative, prejudicial national stereotypes there are also positive ones that exist alongside them. Examples of such positive stereotypes would be that: Israelis are highly educated computer-experts; Icelanders are excellent business people; the British are very creative; the Japanese are very polite. Positive stereotypes describe inaccurate positive generalization of a group. They may also be viewed as offensive, as putting an unfair burden or expectation on the members of the group in question, especially those who not fit the stereotype. These ‘positive’ stereotypes can also play into negative stereotypes of same group. For example, the stereotype of black people skilled in sports turns into negative stereotype of blacks as feeble-minded; Jewish enterprise plays negative stereotypes of greedy Jew. National stereotypes are not based on observations of representatives of ethnic groups, but rather on history, folklore, living conditions.
Bringing up the topic of stereotyping it is unavoidable not to discuss discrimination, which is undoubtedly strongly connected with it. Discrimination, contrary to the stereotype, has more negative meaning; it is not only about differentiating between social units, but it is an inappropriate, invalidate treatment of people for their belonging to the group. Discrimination is also associated with maintaining privilege of one’s group at the cost of another group. It also has to be mentioned that discrimination is a product of racism. The main difference between prejudice and racism is the scale of the phenomenon. Racism can be passed on from generation to generation, because often it is sanctioned by laws, statutes, group norms and customs. Racism affects the differences linked with race by manners of quality of employment, unemployment indicator, restricted access to education, health care and possibility for social promotion. Racism is also a factor of crimes committed and general acts of violence against discriminated groups.

II. American Ethnic Literature.
Power of racial difference in American society was stronger than one may have imagined. Still people are perceived in terms of their outer characteristic including body and facial features, complexion and all other features that reveal their ancestry.
“Race dominates our personal lives. It manifests itself in our speech, dance, neighbors, and friends [...]. Race determines our economic prospects. The race-conscious market screens and selects us for manual jobs and professional careers, red-lines financing for real estate, green-lines our access to insurance, and even raises the price of that car we need to buy.”9

The problem of race appeared in every part of life American citizen of ethnic ancestry beginning with law, work condition, educational prospects, and ending with literature.
The problem of race and ethnicity appeared in the late 1960s and 1970s. Many writers of ethnic minorities had been involved in dilemma of illustrating the lives of non-Anglo American citizens and their very often traumatic experiences. According to Rivkin and Ryan these writers “reflected in prose and in fiction on the conditions of minority ethnic life in a society dominated by another ethnic group's cultural vision and social interests.”10 Under attack on many fronts, multiculturalism and the general move toward self-identification by Americans of ethnic and in an attempt to recognize the unique historical and national origins of different social groups in the United States, thereby valuing multiple cultures’ ways of knowing and being in the world.11 Black studies, Native American studies, and certainly the new Jewish cultural studies movement corresponded to the situating specific culture of these groups within the Western tradition.
Werner Sollors stated that ethnic literature written since the 1960s force readers to rethink history. It was triggered by the publication in 1963 of Nathan Glazer’s and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s work titled Beyond the Melting Pot. Moreover, it stated the end of era, and it was like pathfinder for the restoration of American ethnic identification, during “attacks on the melting pot became the battle cry of unmeltable ethnics who admonished their audiences to pay attention to ethnicity and to give up the assimilationist hope that ethnicity was going to disappear.”12 The work Beyond the Melting Pot points that ethnic groups share their different historical experiences, culture, economic that gave them power to create new culture when the old one will pass.
Ethnicity has been a factor which contributed to the choice of various formal patterns, but it caused tension of mixing new content into old-world forms and writing of minority into forms of majority. Ethnic writers were using realistic techniques and at the same time were interesting in innovatory techniques.
“New national or ethnic consciousness has to be rendered in appropriate forms; and works which express American themes in English forms or ethnic themes in mainstream forms are often criticized for doing so. Since there is no ontological connection between a country and a form, however, such critiques are often based on the political impulse of the moment.”13

Black, Jewish and Native American cultural nationalist movements drew attention to the history of their oppression in the United States, and aimed to produce new cultural knowledge for their respective groups. Oppression of this groups is reflected in the literal theory called Subaltern theory that according to Robin and Jones the term subaltern refers to oppressed and marginalized members of society, but this marginalization is based on racial stereotypes and prejudices.14 Subaltern Theory it is strongly connected with the phenomenon of subaltern genocide, and it is the result of constant humiliation and the need of revenge. In another place Robin and Jones stated that:
“humiliation is related in complex ways to shame, scapegoating, and the depiction of other humans as “beyond the pale.” Genocide may involve acts of humiliation carried out in response to fear of humiliation—more precisely, to fear of future humiliation, based on an experience of past humiliations and habitual submission.”15
Contemporary readers have the notion of obsessive repetition of traumatic experiences Native American, Jewish, and Afro-American literature. Comparing literature of these groups derived from American literature and culture differences itself. Slavery, colonialism, and genocide, and exile are factors that lead to cultural differences. Following Dean J. Franco “these historical phenomena are cataclysm for groups of people and constitute ruptures in cultural history, and are often ruptures of the relationship between people and place.”16 Furthermore, for modern Americans of other ethnicity, their social differences and marginalization that they experience is still observable in their literal works.
The experience of shame, humiliation and trauma of ethnic groups especially African-Americans, is reflected in the Abject Theory. Julia Kristeva defines abjection as something that:
“disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite. The traitor, the liar, the criminal with a good conscience, the shameless rapist, the killer who claims he is a savior. [...]Abjection, on the other hand, is immoral, sinister, scheming, and shady.”17
In contemporary American Literature ethnic writers often refer to abjection, Kristeva stated that writer “imagines [abject’s] logic, projects himself into it, introjects it, and as a consequence perverts language-style and content. But on the other hand, as the sense of abjection is both the abject's judge and accomplice, this is also true of the literature that confronts it.”18 Abjection in literature of Afro- Americans is strongly highlighted by rejection of self caused by continuous notion of shame, humiliation, oppression, and depravation. Abjection is the framework to bring up the subject of all kind of traumatic experience. For Jews trauma involves not only phenomenon of the Holocaust, but also their expel and persecutions from biblical times, postwar outburst of anti-Semitism in U.S. In case of Native Americans traumatic experiences are the beginning from colonization time, wars with French and British invaders, massive killing of bison and ending with reservation and its’ consequences.
When it comes to Native American literature, in contemporary literary studies, it is defined as post-colonial. According to Jace Weave, “the post-colonial is that period which commences at the moment of colonization and continues to the present day. Post-colonial represent a time after colonialism and temporally means that of post- independence of the former colonial world, even if the struggle for decolonization is not yet complete.”19 When it comes to literature, he belief that, all post-colonial literatures are the products of the experience of colonization and tension between colonized and former colonial power. American Indians’ history has a significant impact on development of their literacy and culture, due to the oppression literature become a critical arena for struggle.20 Indians were removed from their holly land and subjected to white settlers who get involved in their culture, literature, and every day life, because of that their traditional writing were changed for ever. Moreover, nineteenth-century American literature discussed the American Indian’s problems. The works of Cooper, Poe and Twain were more noticeable than American Indian literature, thought they were not of Native American ancestry they are American ethnic writers because they depicted problems, brought up stereotypes about Indians.
Native American literary studies occur simultaneously with the renaissance in Native American literature that began in 1968. “The American Indian Movement [...] drew attention to long-suppressed issues relating to the Native American presence in the mainstream culture defined [...] by Anglo-American needs.”21 Many Native American writers introduce innovated literary forms in order to translate original oral culture. Hybridizing the novel was considered as donating Native ideas, values, and customs. Dean J. Franco claims that “Native American literary renaissance occurred during the formation of multicultural pedagogy in elementary and high schools, and in concert with the institutional recognition of multiculturalism in universities across the country.”22 At this point there need to be done inclination to the institutionalization of multiculturalism that is very important in ethnic literary studies. Franco beliefs that multiculturalism is strongly engaged in “philosophical and theoretical projects of poststructuralism and feminist theory and epistemology, especially the critique of universalism presumed in Enlightenment philosophy and political thought.”23 Both of them, poststructuralism and postmodernism are essential for ethnic studies.
Multiculturalism rouses the question of ethnic identity, people of ethnic need to chose what kind of Jew, Afro-American, Indian or other they may be. Multiculturalism allows individual to abandon an identity or even join another. Nevertheless, it is possible to membership both ethnic culture and new identity? “A critical revisionists ethnic culture might avail itself of more than one identity, not to produce some hybrid- a new identity that stands apart from the old- but to transform the way identities are conceived in the first place.”24
Among ethnic minorities in U.S the first that gained its representation in the academy was the African American literature. According to Rivkin and Ryan African American literary critiques were concentrated on historical African American literary movements, studied the interference of white racism and black literary response. “In some sense their work on culture is inseparable from that of the African- American writers whose work extended the very literary tradition now receiving such attention.”25 Early ethnic American identities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were defined by geography, especially in case of Jewish immigrants who defined their relation to the United Sates in terms of the distance traveled. The myth of the American dream was the basis for the idea of great journey. Becoming American citizen meant assimilation regardless of ethnic ancestry to bridge the cultural gaps defined by geographical distance.
Werner Sollors stated that Americans of different background and related cultures persist in symbolic distinctions, this process is called ethnicization, and it is based on the assumption that ethic identity is a modern phenomenon not tradition growing from narrow-minded beginnings of modernist assimilation.”One may say that ethnicity is continuously created anew and that assimilation and modernization take place in ethnic and even ethnocentric forms. The old antithesis between ethnicity and modernism was often flawed by a one-dimensional view of the power of cultural diffusion, of assimilation as homogenization.”26 Ethnic Literature and groups of ethnic turn toward the idea of multiculturalism, where individual is still connected with the original culture and gained full assimilation to American society, what makes individual cosmopolitan.

III. Conclusion.
Stereotypes are part of the social tradition that contributed to learning of individual the popular stereotypes attributed to the major ethnic groups. Stereotypes explain resentment towards ethnic groups. Stereotypes of ethnic groups bring a lot of dangers, and they contributed to prejudice, discrimination, persecution, exile and genocide. National stereotypes are social constructions, probably based on the socio- economical conditions, history, customs, myths and values of a culture.
The problem of race and ethnicity appeared in the late 1960s and 1970s. many writers of ethnic minorities had been involved in dilemma of illustrating the lives of non-Anglo American citizens and their very often traumatic experiences. Black studies, Native American studies, and certainly the new Jewish cultural studies movement corresponded to the situating specific ethnic cultures within the Western tradition. Cultural nationalist movements of these groups drew attention to the histories and legacies of their oppression in the United States, helped produce new cultural knowledge for their respective groups.
Comparing literature of Afro-Americans, Native American and Jews, they derived from American Literature and cultural differences, which are products of slavery, colonialism, genocide and as well as physical displacements of people through immigration and exile. For modern Americans of other ethnicity, their social differences, trauma and marginalization that they experience is observable in their literal works. Their history has a significant impact on development of their literacy and culture, due to the oppression literature become a critical arena for struggle.

1. C. Neil Marceae, Charles Stangor, Miles Hewstone, Stereotypy i Uprzedzenia. Najnowsze Ujęcie, trans. Małgorzata Majchrzak, Anna and Magdalena Kacmajor, Agnieszka Nowak (Gdańsk: Gdańskie Wydawnictwo Psychologiczne, 1999), p. 217.
2. Marceae, Stangor, Hewstone, p. 42.
3. Craig McGarty, Vincent Yzerbyt, Russell Speats, “Social, Cultural and Cognitive Factors in Stereotype Formation,” in Stereotypes and Explanations. The Formation of Meaningful Beliefs About Social Groups eds. Craig McGarty, Vincent Yzerbyt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 3-4. Available at: http://www.ccebook.org (11 November 2011)
4. McGarty, Yzerbyt, Speats p. 5.
5. Marceae, Stangor, Hawstone, p. 53.
6. Marceae, Stangor, Hawstone, p. 225.
7. Marceae, Stangor, Hawstone, pp. 263.
8. McGarty, Yzerbyt, Speats, p. 10. (emphasis in original)
9.Ian F. Funny Lopez, “The Social Construction of Race,” in Literary Theory: An Anthology, eds. J. Rivkin, M. Ryan (Maiden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2004), p. 965.
10. Julie Rivkin, Michael Ryan, “Introduction: Situating Race,” in Literary Theory: An Anthology, eds. J. Rivkin, M. Ryan (Maiden: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2004), p. 959.
11. Dean J. Franco, Ethnic American Literature: Comparing Chicano, Jewish, and African American Writing (University of Virginia Press, 2006), p. 4.
12. Werner Sollors, Beyond Ethnicity: Consent and Descent in American Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 1986), p. 98 http://ebookee.org/ (22 August 2010). (emphasis in original)
13. Sollors, p. 237.
14. Nikolas A. Robin, Adam Jones, eds., Genocides by the Oppressed. Subaltern Genocide in Theory and Practice (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), p. 4. Available at: http://ebookee.org/ (8 July 2010).
15. Robin, Jones, p. 44.
16. Franco, pp. 6-7.
17. Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror. An Essay on Abjection (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), p. 4.
18. Kristeva, p. 16.
19. Jace Weaver, Other Words. American Indian Literature, Law, and Culture (Norman: University of Oklahoma press, 2001), p. 294.
19. Weaver, pp.11-12.
20. Rivkin, Ryan, p. 960.
21. Franco, p. 4.
22. Franco, p. 5.
23. Franco, p. 171.
24. Rivkin, Ryan, p. 959

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