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  • Introduction: The Literature of the Welfare State

    1. “The Whole Question of What Writing Is”: Jack London, the Literary Left, and the Federal Writers’ Project



    2. The Politics of Textual Integrity: Ayn Rand, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway


    3. Wallace Stevens and the Invention of Social Security


    4. The Vanishing American Father: Sentiment and Labor in The Grapes of Wrath and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn


    5. “The Death of the Gallant Liberal”: Robert Frost, Richard Wright, and Busby Berkeley

    Conclusion: New Deal Postmodernism

    Notes

    Index

  • New Deal Modernism tells a strikingly new story about the relations of literature to political agency. Szalay’s work will be a welcome provocation, both to left revisionist scholarship on cultural politics and to the historiography of U.S. modernism.”—Sara Blair, University of Michigan — N/A

    “An argument of striking range and precision. Oppositions of left and right, realist and modernist will look different from now on. A terrific book.”—Richard Ohmann, Wesleyan University — N/A

    “Szalay brilliantly relates aesthetic debates of the 1930s to debates over how art might survive economic conditions in which art objects have little chance of competing with basic economic necessities. Szalay’s unique contribution is to show exactly how, in providing insurance against the market, the New Deal reinvented the project of making art.”—Frances Ferguson, Johns Hopkins University — N/A

    “Through its frank assessment of New Deal culture, Szalay’s book adds mightily to the renascence of history-minded revisions of literary modernism. If you want to know how literary citizenship connected with the social motion of state initiatives like the Social Security Administration or the Federal Arts Project, then this is a very good place to begin.”—Andrew Ross, New York University — N/A

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  • Description

    In New Deal Modernism Michael Szalay examines the effect that the rise of the welfare state had on American modernism during the 1930s and 1940s, and, conversely, what difference this revised modernism made to the New Deal’s famed invention of “Big Government.”
    Szalay situates his study within a liberal culture bent on security, a culture galvanized by its imagined need for private and public insurance.
    Taking up prominent exponents of social and economic security—such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Maynard Keynes, and John Dewey—Szalay demonstrates how the New Deal’s revision of free-market culture required rethinking the political function of aesthetics. Focusing in particular on the modernist fascination with the relation between form and audience, Szalay offers innovative accounts of Busby Berkeley, Jack London, James M. Cain, Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, Betty Smith, and Gertrude Stein, as well as extended analyses of the works of Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Richard Wright.

    About The Author(s)

    Michael Szalay is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at University of California, Irvine.

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