On the line: A reconsideration of 1930s modernist and proletarian radicalism
Rozendal, Michael Arend
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Examining the thirties as a critical reevaluation and expansion of American modernism through a consideration of the period's vibrant little magazines, I recover the provocation of a moment that engaged both the dispossessed and the cultural elite in a search for a shared aesthetics and politics. The developing literary communities of the thirties transformed the work of established writers such as William Carlos Williams and Langston Hughes while recuperating politicized modernists like Lola Ridge. Further, these journals helped to foster a generation of emerging modernists---Louis Zukofsky, Charles Reznikoff, Sherry Mangan---and proletarian young turks---Jack Conroy, Fred Miller, Joseph Kalar, and H. H. Lewis to name a few. The upstart proletarian journals supported communities that became more than a foil to academically canonized strains of modernism. In the publications of the thirties, formally and socially radical writers shared and at times contested space on the page as they struggled with a difficult history. Returning to this legacy of experiments traces a vibrant cultural moment whose roots and institutional branches defined much of the twentieth century. Chapter one frames the engagement with the print culture and aesthetics of the thirties; from a consideration of Louis Zukofsky's "Program: 'Objectivists' 1931" as a repudiation of T. S. Eliot's 1919 "Tradition and the Individual Talent," I argue that the thirties productively reimagined an ongoing avant-garde poetry. The second chapter grounds these formations through a reading of an influential if short-lived journal, The Left: A Quarlerly Review of Radical and Experimental Art . The third chapter examines William Carlos Williams' short stories, poetry, and editorial work, as this central figure of American poetry became a model for a rising wave of proletarian fiction, a process that expands his early imagist writing to lay the groundwork for his masterwork, Paterson. The fourth chapter analyzes the ongoing urgency of the thirties through an archaeology of Langston Hughes' creative synthesis of race and class in the thirties in his "Let America Be America Again" which was revived as a mantra for John Kerry's 2004 presidential bid.