We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Melting-Pot Modernism

Sarah Wilson

Publication Year: 2010

Between 1891 and 1920 more than 18 million immigrants entered the United States. While many Americans responded to this influx by proposing immigration restriction or large-scale "Americanization" campaigns, a few others, figures such as Jane Addams and John Dewey, adopted the image of the melting pot to oppose such measures. These Progressives imagined assimilation as a multidirectional process, in which both native-born and immigrants contributed their cultural gifts to a communal fund.

Melting-Pot Modernism reveals the richly aesthetic nature of assimilation at the turn of the twentieth century, focusing on questions of the individual's relation to culture, the protection of vulnerable populations, the sharing of cultural heritages, and the far-reaching effects of free-market thinking. By tracing the melting-pot impulse toward merging and cross-fertilization through the writings of Henry James, James Weldon Johnson, Willa Cather, and Gertrude Stein, as well as through the autobiography, sociology, and social commentary of their era, Sarah Wilson makes a new connection between the ideological ferment of the Progressive era and the literary experimentation of modernism.

Wilson puts literary analysis at the service of intellectual history, showing that literary modes of thought and expression both shaped and were shaped by debates over cultural assimilation. Exploring the depth and nuance of an earlier moment's commitment to cultural inclusiveness, Melting-Pot Modernism gives new meaning to American struggles to imaginatively encompass difference-and to the central place of literary interpretation in understanding such struggles.

Published by: Cornell University Press

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (31.5 KB)
pp. i-vi


pdf iconDownload PDF (25.6 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (23.3 KB)
pp. ix-xii

...i can hardly number the people who have helped me with it. still: for guid-ance and inspiration from the very beginning, i?d like to thank robert Fer-guson, Ann douglas, Bob o?Meally, elizabeth Blackmar, ross Posnock, Josh goren, ilyon Woo, and lori Harrison-Kahan. i?ve been lucky to find excel-lent readers in toronto and beyond: for patience and great ideas, thanks to ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (672.3 KB)
pp. 1-13

...the United States at the turn of the twentieth century and during the several decades that followed. In 1905, as Henry James chronicled his return to the United States, the number of immigrants exceeded one million per year for the first time in the nation?s history; between 1891 and 1920, over 18 million foreign-born migrants entered the United States.1 The effects of this massive ...

read more

Chapter 1

pdf iconDownload PDF (185.5 KB)
pp. 14-50

...wrote to Horace Kallen that, although he ?never did care for the melting pot metaphor,? he did feel that ?genuine assimilation to one another not to Anglo- Saxondom?seems to be essential to an American.? 1 Dewey?s ambiva-lence here is instructive. Despite his (and Kallen?s) distaste for the metaphor, he uses the term ?melting pot? to evoke ?genuine assimilation,? an assimilation ...

read more

Chapter 2

pdf iconDownload PDF (204.0 KB)
pp. 51-90

...modernist. Born in 1843 and expatriated in 1866, he did not fully experi-ence the waves of immigration that gave rise to melting-pot discourse at the turn of the twentieth century. Though The American Scene (1907), which recounts his travels through the United States in 1904 ?1905, represents one of the most perceptive accounts of the transformations the nation was under-...

read more

Chapter 3

pdf iconDownload PDF (185.7 KB)
pp. 91-127

...integration. His fidelity to this objective, which he saw as entailing the con-struction of a racially egalitarian American state and culture, was unmatched among African American intellectuals of his generation. This integrationism represents the melting-pot impetus in Progressive-era race relations; it has, most famously, been decried by Harold Cruse as preventing the emergence ...

read more

Chapter 4

pdf iconDownload PDF (184.7 KB)
pp. 128-164

...on a logic shared by a great deal of melting-pot writing: he turned to cultural activities of the past to construct parameters for present cultural syntheses. Like so many immigrant autobiographers of the Progressive era, Johnson saw cultural synthesis as entailing not the repression of personal and group histories, but their broader dissemination. The better that white audiences ...

read more

Chapter 5

pdf iconDownload PDF (167.6 KB)
pp. 165-197

...ing of Americans, which she wrote intermittently from 1903 through 1911, firmly situates her within the immigration debates of the turn of the cen-tury (it was based on her own family?s immigrant heritage). The Making of Americans, published in 1925, represents a paradigmatic melting-pot text: in it, a story of immigration becomes the occasion for Stein?s radical modern-...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (41.0 KB)
pp. 198-202

...today are influenced by a ?cultural turn?? a turn that has reconfigured the academy over the course of the last twenty to thirty years and that uses a range of broadly conceived artistic materials to pursue a variety of intellec-tual projects. The melting pot represents an important early version of such a cultural turn, and though it is by no means the only origin-point of this ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (205.5 KB)
pp. 203-228

Selected Bibliography

pdf iconDownload PDF (91.9 KB)
pp. 229-242


pdf iconDownload PDF (67.7 KB)
pp. 243-250

E-ISBN-13: 9780801459412
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801448164

Page Count: 264
Publication Year: 2010

Edition: 1