front cover of Epic Revisionism
Epic Revisionism
Russian History and Literature as Stalinist Propaganda
Edited by Kevin M. F. Platt and David Brandenberger
University of Wisconsin Press, 2006

Focusing on a number of historical and literary personalities who were regarded with disdain in the aftermath of the 1917 revolution—figures such as Peter the Great, Ivan the Terrible, Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Mikhail Lermontov—Epic Revisionism tells the fascinating story of these individuals’ return to canonical status during the darkest days of the Stalin era. 

    An inherently interdisciplinary project, Epic Revisionism features pieces on literary and cultural history, film, opera, and theater. This volume pairs scholarly essays with selections drawn from Stalin-era primary sources—newspaper articles, unpublished archival documents, short stories—to provide students and specialists with the richest possible understanding of this understudied phenomenon in modern Russian history.

“These scholars shed a great deal of light not only on Stalinist culture but on the politics of cultural production under the Soviet system.”—David L. Hoffmann, Slavic Review

front cover of In Stalin's Time
In Stalin's Time
Middleclass Values in Soviet Fiction
Vera S. Dunham
Duke University Press, 1990
This new edition of In Stalin’s Time, which brings back into print Vera Dunham’s 1976 landmark study of popular fiction in the Soviet Union during the Stalin regime, is updated to include new material by the author and a new introduction by Richard Sheldon. Dunham describes how the middle-brow or postwar establishmentarian literature of the Stalinist period was a product of a “Big Deal” intended to propagate values and establish an alliance between the regime and the middle class. Both descriptive and analytical, Dunham’s complex picture of “high totalitarianism” not only reveals insights into the details of Soviet life but illuminates important theoretical questions about the role of literature in the political structure of Soviet society.

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In the Company of Radical Women Writers
Rosemary Hennessy
University of Minnesota Press, 2023

Recovering the bold voices and audacious lives of women who confronted capitalist society’s failures and injustices in the 1930s—a decade unnervingly similar to our own

In the Company of Radical Women Writers rediscovers the political commitments and passionate advocacy of seven writers—Black, Jewish, and white—who as young women turned to communism around the Great Depression and, over decades of national crisis, spoke to issues of labor, land, and love in ways that provide urgent, thought-provoking guidance for today. Rosemary Hennessy spotlights the courageous lives of women who confronted similar challenges to those we still face: exhausting and unfair labor practices, unrelenting racial injustice, and environmental devastation.

As Hennessy brilliantly shows, the documentary journalism and creative and biographical writings of Marvel Cooke, Louise Thompson Patterson, Claudia Jones, Alice Childress, Josephine Herbst, Meridel Le Sueur, and Muriel Rukeyser recognized that life is sustained across a web of dependencies that we each have a duty to maintain. Their work brought into sharp focus the value and dignity of Black women’s domestic work, confronted the destructive myths of land exploitation and white supremacy, and explored ways of knowing attuned to a life-giving erotic energy that spans bodies and relations. In doing so, they also expanded the scope of American communism.

By tracing the attention these seven women pay to “life-making” as the relations supporting survival and wellbeing—from Harlem to the American South and Midwest—In the Company of Radical Women Writers reveals their groundbreaking reconceptions of the political and provides bracing inspiration in the ongoing fight for justice.


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Messiah of the New Technique
John Howard Lawson, Communism, and American Theatre, 1923-1937
Jonathan L. Chambers
Southern Illinois University Press, 2006

Messiah of the New Technique: John Howard Lawson, Communism, and American Theatre, 1923–1937 is a critical and political biography and a cultural and social history that focuses on Lawson’s career in the theatre. Using a materialist methodology, Jonathan L. Chambers emphasizes the evolution and interplay of the playwright’s artistic vision and political ideology, considering his art as both a documentation of this evolution and a product of the socio-political and cultural matrix in which he was immersed.

Spanning the playwright’s career, the volume details Lawson’s early indoctrination in and commitment to the avant-garde, his use and development of various nonrealistic playwriting techniques, his subtle though unfocused attacks on bourgeois society, and the varied critical responses he received. Chambers addresses Lawson’s involvement with the New Playwrights’ Theatre and his participation in the protests surrounding the case of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti, which stimulated his growing commitment to left-wing politics and radical causes.

Chambers also analyzes the social and cultural factors that shaped Lawson’s growing interest in revolutionary politics, his tutelage in Marxism under Edmund Wilson, and his tenure as president of the Screen Writers Guild. He also covers the final phase of Lawson’s playwriting career, which reveals the playwright’s internal struggle. That struggle, suggests Chambers, pitted Lawson’s view of aesthetics against his political ideology and is reflected in his scripts and theoretical writings.

Messiah of the New Technique provides a wealth of new material about both the playwright and the period, offering a critical synopsis of the artist’s career, addressing his often vehement rebuttals to his critics, and summarizing both his political activism and his creative and critical endeavors in the last forty years of his life.


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The Novel and the American Left
Critical Essays on Depression-Era Fiction
Janet Galligani Casey
University of Iowa Press, 2004

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.

front cover of Politics, Ideology, and Literary Discourse in Modern China
Politics, Ideology, and Literary Discourse in Modern China
Theoretical Interventions and Cultural Critique
Kang Liu and Xiaobing Tang, eds.
Duke University Press, 1993
This collection of essays addresses the perception that our understanding of modern China will be enhanced by opening the literature of China to more rigorous theoretical and comparative study. In doing so, the book confronts the problematic and complex subject of China's literary, theoretical, and cultural responses to the experience of the modern.
With chapters by writers, scholars, and critics from mainland China, Hong Kong, and the United States, this volume explores the complexity of representing modernity within the Chinese context. Addressing the problem of finding a proper language for articulating fundamental issues in the historical experience of twentieth-century China, the authors critically re-examine notions of realism, the self/subject, and modernity and draw on perspectives from feminist criticism, ideological analysis, and postmodern theory. Among the many topics explored are subjectivity in Chinese cultural theory, Chinese gender relations, the viability of a Lacanian approach to Chinese identity, the politics of subversion in Chinese reportage, and the ambivalent status of the icon of paternity since Mao.
At the same time this book offers a probing look into the transformation that Chinese culture as well as the study of that culture is currently undergoing, it also reconfirms private discourse as an ideal site for an investigation into a real and imaginary, private and collective encounter with history.

Contributors. Liu Kang, Xiaobing Tang, Liu Zaifu, Stephen Chan, Lydia H. Liu, Wendy Larson, Theodore Huters, David Wang, Tonglin Lu, Yingjin Zhang, Yuejin Wang, Li Tuo, Leo Ou-fan Lee


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Ragged Revolutionaries
The Lumpenproletariat and African American Marxism in Depression-Era Literature
Nathaniel Mills
University of Massachusetts Press, 2017
In Marxism, the concept of the lumpenproletariat refers to the masses in rags, outsiders on the edge of society, drifters and criminals, of little or no use politically. But in Ragged Revolutionaries, Nathaniel Mills argues that the lumpenproletariat was central to an overlooked yet vibrant mode of African American Marxism formulated during the Great Depression by black writers on the Communist left.

By analyzing multiple published and unpublished works from the period, Mills shows how Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and Margaret Walker used the lumpenproletariat to imagine new forms of revolutionary knowledge and agency. In their writings, hobos riding the rails, criminals hustling to make ends meet, heroic black folk-outlaws, and individuals who fall out of the proletariat into the social margins all furnish material for thinking through resistance to the exploitations of capitalism, patriarchy, and Jim Crow. Ragged Revolutionaries introduces the lumpenproletariat into literary study, offers a new account of the place of Marxism in African American literature and politics, and clarifies the political and aesthetic commitments of three major modern black writers.

front cover of The Suburb of Dissent
The Suburb of Dissent
Cultural Politics in the United States and Canada during the 1930s
Caren Irr
Duke University Press, 1998
In The Suburb of Dissent Caren Irr explores the leftist literary subculture of the United States and Canada during the 1930s to reconstruct the ideas of mass culture, class, and nationality that emerged as a result of the Great Depression. Unearthing plots and characters that still surface in contemporary narratives, Irr juxtaposes classic and neglected works of criticism, fiction, poetry, and journalism and demonstrates how leftist writers resisted totalitarianism much more thoroughly than Cold War accounts would suggest.
Irr highlights works by Richard Wright, John Dos Passos, Nathanael West, and others to uncover the complex relationship between American anti-communism and communist anti-Americanism. In an unprecedented move, she extends her inquiry to the work of Canadian intellectuals such as Dorothy Livesay and Hugh MacLennan to reveal the important yet overlooked fact that the territory at the border of the United States and Canada provided a vital contact zone and transnational “home” for leftist thinkers. Attending to intersections of race, ethnicity, and gender, Irr illustrates the ways dissenting writers made culture actively respond to the political crises of the Great Depression and questioned the nature of what it means to be “American.”
Drawing on insights from postcolonial and American studies and taking into account the intellectual and cultural dimensions of leftist politics, The Suburb of Dissent is the first study of the 1930s to bring together U.S. and Canadian writings. In doing so, it reveals how the unique culture of the left contributed to North American history at this critical juncture and beyond.

front cover of The Theoretical Dimensions of Henry James
The Theoretical Dimensions of Henry James
John Carlos Rowe
University of Wisconsin Press, 1985

Rowe examines James from the perspectives of the psychology of literary influence, feminism, Marxism, psychoanalysis, literary phenomenology and impressionism, and reader-response criticism, transforming a literary monument into the telling point of intersection for modern critical theories.


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