The Novel and the American Left: Critical Essays on Depression-Era Fiction

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Janet Galligani Casey
University of Iowa Press, 2004 - Business & Economics - 236 pages

The first collection of critical essays to focus specifically on the fiction produced by American novelists of the Depression era, The Novel and the American Left contributes substantially to the newly emerging emphasis on twentieth-century American literary radicalism. Recent studies have recovered this body of work and redefined in historical and theoretical terms its vibrant contribution to American letters. Casey consolidates and expands this field of study by providing a more specific consideration of individual novels and novelists, many of which are reaching new contemporary audiences through reprints.

The Novel and the American Left focuses exclusively on left-leaning fiction of the Depression era, lending visibility and increased critical validity to these works and showing the various ways in which they contributed not only to theorizations of the Left but also to debates about the content and form of American fiction. In theoretical terms, the collection as a whole contributes to the larger reconceptualization of American modernity currently under way. More pragmatically, individual essays suggest specific authors, texts, and approaches to teachers and scholars seeking to broaden and/or complicate more traditional “American modernism” syllabi and research agendas.

The selected essays take up, among others, such “hard-core"” leftist writers as Mike Gold and Myra Page, who were associated with the Communist Party; the popular novels of James M. Cain and Kenneth Fearing, whose works were made into successful films; and critically acclaimed but nonetheless “lost” novelists such as Josephine Johnson, whose Now in November (Pulitzer Prize, 1936) anticipates and complicates the more popular agrarian mythos of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

This volume will be of interest not only to literary specialists but also to historians, social scientists, and those interested in American cultural studies.

 

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Contents

Challenging the Service Economy in James M Cains Mildred Pierce
1
Abortion Resistance and Women Writers on the Left
16
The Gendered Rhetoric of Myra Pages Moscow Yankee
35
Disfigured Bodies and Literary Experimentalism in Yonnondio and Christ in Concrete
61
The Objectivity of Nature in Josephine Herbsts Rope of Gold
81
Agrarian Landscapes the Depression and Womens Progressive Fiction
96
Racism and Jewish WorkingClass Rebellion in Mike Golds Jews Without Money
118
The Impossible Location of Proletarian Literature
132
Marching Marching and the Idea of the Proletarian Novel
151
What Praxis Means in the Novels of Kenneth Fearing
172
Works Cited
195
A Selected Bibliography
209
Contributors
211
Index
213
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About the author (2004)

Janet Galligani Casey is an independent scholar who has most recently taught at Skidmore College. A recent recipient of an NEH fellowship, she is the author of Dos Passos and the Ideology of the Feminine, winner of the 1998 Modern Language Association’s Prize for Independent Scholars.