Article Title

The Limits Of Ethnicity


Irving Howe


ethnicity, Americans, regional cultures, custom, immigrant communities


Americans have often defined themselves through an unwillingness to define themselves. In the work of our greatest writers, notably Melville and Whitman, the refusal to succumb to fixity of definition comes to seem a cultural signature.

In opposition there has arisen a native industry of America-definers who offer a maddening plenitude of answers. But people in a hurry with answers have usually not even heard the questions. And finally it all comes to the same thing: many answers equal no answer.