United States modernism and its quest for national literature: A case of William Carlos Williams
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The aim of this dissertation is to prove the proposition that United States modernism should be approached as a nationalist cultural project to create a viable native culture in the Progressive era. The first chapter deals with the socio-political background of the era in which nationalism acquired its authority as a supreme frame of reference through such institutional and individual endeavors as the Populist movement and the Progressive reforms that aimed to resolve the socio-political crises generated in the process of rapid modernization of the nation. The second chapter is devoted to refuting particular critical views on modernism in which modernism is generally regarded as an embodiment of ahistorical and apolitical aestheticism. In doing so, the problematic distinction of modernism and the avant-garde is challenged along with the problems arising from the simplistic application of the European concept of modernism onto United States modernism. In the third chapter the discussion moves over to the philosophical and cultural discourses that reflect the nationalist sentiment in the Progressive era in order to posit United States modernism within the nationalist intellectual tradition. The final chapter provides an example of the convergence of modernist aesthetics with the nationalist imperatives through an examination of William Carlos Williams's writings. One of the most significant results of this convergence is presented in the part where Williams's theory of contact ultimately serves to reaffirm the power of American liberal ideology.