Class and American Literature
Publication Year: 2006
Published by: University of Michigan Press
1. The Veil and the Vision: Reading Class in American Literature
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At a climactic moment in Margret Howth, Rebecca Harding Davis’s remarkable first novel, Dr. Knowles—mill owner, Fourierite socialist, and man of science—gives Margret Howth “a glimpse of the under-life of America.”¹ “I want to show you something,” he begins, “a bit of hell: outskirt. You’re in a fit state: it’ll do you good. . . . It’s time you knew your...
2. “Discovering Some New Race”: “Life in the Iron Mills,” Whiteness, and the Genesis of the American Labor Narrative
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This letter, which is commonly cited in critical studies of Davis’s work, is usually read through the lens of feminism. A young and relatively little published writer, Davis seems at once “playful,” as Sharon Harris argues, and deferential, foreshadowing her later willingness to fit her critical vision into Field’s limited appetite for gritty social realism. Yet, written...
3. Voices of Insurgency: Strikes, Speech, and Social Realism
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In the twenty-third chapter of his best-selling study How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis changes his rhetorical strategy. The preceding chapters have been largely documentary, using descriptions, illustrations, and photographs to represent the degradations wrought by poverty on the various inhabitants of the New York tenements. Working toward his...
4. Middle-Class Melancholy and Proletarian Pain: The Writer as Class Transvestite
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On a rainy winter night in the depression year of 1894, Stephen Crane “went forth” dressed in “rags and tatters . . . to try to eat as a tramp may eat, and sleep as the wanderers sleep.” His experiences in New York City’s Bowery Mission that night provided the basis for his sketch “An Experiment in Misery,” which confronted readers of the...
5. Modernism and the Aesthetics of Management: T. S. Eliot and Gertrude Stein Write Labor Literature
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When the Armory Show opened in New York on February 15, 1913, it was the first major presentation of postimpressionist art in the United States and thus rapidly came to represent what J. M. Mancini describes as the “moment at which the ‘new’ vanquished the ‘old’ in American culture with a single and stunning revolutionary blow...
6. The Fetish of Being Inside: Proletarian Texts and Working-Class Bodies
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In the winter of 1939, as the chaotic decade of the Great Depression wound to a close, Philip Rahv, onetime Communist Party member and coeditor of the recently disaffiliated Partisan Review, declared the proletarian literature movement a dead entity. Born out of an unnatural coupling of aesthetics and politics, nurtured through its infancy by...
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Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 3 photographs, 1 illustration
Publication Year: 2006
Series Title: Class : Culture