Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 57. The Literature of the Immigrant

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XXIII. Education

§ 57. The Literature of the Immigrant

One type of literature is peculiar to America, the literature of the immigrant. Much of this is educational, for the whole process of making the immigrant into the citizen of the adopted country is an educational one of scarcely realized importance. Of fascinating interest also are the literary accounts of the process. First among these was The Making of an American (1901) by Jacob Riis, a newspaper reporter and social reformer, of Danish birth. The Reminiscences (1907) of Carl Schurz, the soldier, statesman, and liberal political leader, of German birth, are quite the most voluminous and important of these books from the general, though not from the educational, point of view. The numerous volumes of Edward A. Steiner, of Bohemian origin, cover the experience of a successful educator, lecturer, and sociologist in a variety of phases of American life. Chief among his works are From Alien to Citizen and Confessions of a Hyphenated American. Mary Antin’s Promised Land (1912) contains much that is of interest to the educator, for it gives a detached and yet intimate or personal view of many of our customs and institutions, including the school, into all of which the native so gradually grows that he never becomes reflectively conscious of them. This conscious reaction to the new environment by one foreign to it and acute enough to observe, constitutes in fact the real educative influence of a society. More recently a Syrian, Abraham M. Rihbany, has given an account from a new angle; while the latest, and from the formal educational point of view the fullest, account is An American in the Making, by M. E. Ravage, of Rumanian origin. This latter gives quite the best description of the life and spirit of a Mid-Western university that is to be found. No other part of the recent educational literature of America deserves greater attention than the volumes of this group or possesses anything like their charm, originality, or significance.