Sensational Modernism

Experimental Fiction and Photography in Thirties America

Sensational Modernism

Challenging the conventional wisdom that the 1930s were dominated by literary and photographic realism, Sensational Modernism uncovers a rich vein of experimental work by politically progressive artists. Examining images by photographers such as Weegee and Aaron Siskind and fiction by writers such as William Carlos Williams, Richard Wright, Tillie Olsen, and Pietro di Donato, Joseph Entin argues that these artists drew attention to the country's most vulnerable residents by using what he calls an "aesthetic of astonishment," focused on startling, graphic images of pain, injury, and prejudice. Traditional portrayals of the poor depicted stoic, passive figures of sentimental suffering or degraded but potentially threatening figures in need of supervision. Sensational modernists sought to shock middle-class audiences into new ways of seeing the nation's impoverished and outcast populations. The striking images these artists created, often taking the form of contorted or disfigured bodies drawn from the realm of the tabloids, pulp magazines, and cinema, represented a bold, experimental form of social aesthetics. Entin argues that these artists created a willfully unorthodox brand of vernacular modernism in which formal avant-garde innovations were used to delineate the conditions, contradictions, and pressures of life on the nation's fringes.

American Modernism and Depression Documentary

American Modernism and Depression Documentary

American Modernism and Depression Documentary surveys the uneven terrain of American modernity through the lens of the documentary book. Jeff Allred argues that photo-texts of the 1930s stage a set of mediations between rural hinterlands and metropolitan areas, between elite producers of culture and the "forgotten man" of Depression-era culture, between a myth of consensual national unity and various competing ethnic and regional collectivities. In light of the complexity this entails, this study takes issue with a critical tradition that has painted the documentary expression" of the 1930s as a simplistic and propagandistic divergence from literary modernism. Allred situates these texts, and the "documentary modernism" they represent, as a central part of American modernism and response to American modernity, as he looks at the impoverished sharecroppers depcited in the groundbreaking Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the disenfranchised African Americans in Richard Wright's polemical 12 Million Black Voices, and the experiments in Depression-era photography found in Life magazine.

Modernist Commitments

Ethics, Politics, and Transnational Modernism

Modernist Commitments

Jessica Berman demonstrates how modernist narrative connects ethical attitudes and responsibilities to the active creation of political relationships and the way we imagine justice. She challenges divisions between "modernist" and "committed" writing, arguing that a continuum of political engagement undergirds modernisms worldwide and that it is strengthened rather than hindered by formal experimentation. In addition to making the case for a transnational model of modernism, Berman shows how modernism's play with formal matters, its challenge to the boundaries between fact and fiction, its incorporation of vernacular and folkways, and its engagement with embodied experience and intimacy offer not only an expanded account of modernist texts and commitments but a new way of thinking about what modernism is and can do.

Ain’t Got No Home

America's Great Migrations and the Making of an Interracial Left

Ain’t Got No Home

Most scholarship on the mass migrations of African Americans and southern whites during and after the Great Depression treats those migrations as separate phenomena, strictly divided along racial lines. In this engaging interdisciplinary work, Erin Royston Battat argues instead that we should understand these Depression-era migrations as interconnected responses to the capitalist collapse and political upheavals of the early twentieth century. During the 1930s and 1940s, Battat shows, writers and artists of both races created migration stories specifically to bolster the black-white Left alliance. Defying rigid critical categories, Battat considers a wide variety of media, including literary classics by John Steinbeck and Ann Petry, "lost" novels by Sanora Babb and William Attaway, hobo novellas, images of migrant women by Dorothea Lange and Elizabeth Catlett, popular songs, and histories and ethnographies of migrant shipyard workers. This vibrant rereading and recovering of the period's literary and visual culture expands our understanding of the migration narrative by uniting the political and aesthetic goals of the black and white literary Left and illuminating the striking interrelationship between American populism and civil rights.

Research Guide to American Literature

Research Guide to American Literature

The new Research Guide to American Literature is a series of handbooks for students that provides strategies for studying and writing about frequently taught literary topics. Each volume contains dozens of study guides, each of which examines a particular work, author, movement, or theme, providing the necessary background information, suggesting fruitful areas of research, and listing the best secondary sources.

Locust Gleanings

Essays, Reviews, and Other Interregna on Books, Language, and Literature, 1984-2009

Locust Gleanings

This new collection of literary essays includes pieces on the fiction of Joe Brainard, Guy Davenport, Alice Hoffman, Kenneth Koch, Ann Lauterbach, Ishmael Reed, and Samuel R. Delany, among many others. Bamberger also adds an unpublished diary of his 2007 trip to Manhattan, Long Island, and Philadephia, detailing the many literary and artistic figures he met along the way. Another remarkable journey by a major modern critic.

Djuna Barnes and Affective Modernism

Djuna Barnes and Affective Modernism

Explores the dynamic connections between the affective body and Djuna Barnes's textual corpus. The five chapters of this book reconsider modernist intertextuality, affect, and subjectivity to produce a series of lively and compelling readings of the major

American Night

The Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War

American Night

American Night, the final volume of an unprecedented trilogy, brings Alan Wald's multigenerational history of Communist writers to a poignant climax. Using new research to explore the intimate lives of novelists, poets, and critics during the Cold War, Wald reveals a radical community longing for the rebirth of the social vision of the 1930s and struggling with a loss of moral certainty as the Communist worldview was being called into question. The resulting literature, Wald shows, is a haunting record of fracture and struggle linked by common structures of feeling, ones more suggestive of the "negative dialectics" of Theodor Adorno than the traditional social realism of the Left. Establishing new points of contact among Kenneth Fearing, Ann Petry, Alexander Saxton, Richard Wright, Jo Sinclair, Thomas McGrath, and Carlos Bulosan, Wald argues that these writers were in dialogue with psychoanalysis, existentialism, and postwar modernism, often generating moods of piercing emotional acuity and cosmic dissent. He also recounts the contributions of lesser known cultural workers, with a unique accent on gays and lesbians, secular Jews, and people of color. The vexing ambiguities of an era Wald labels "late antifascism" serve to frame an impressive collective biography.