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Apostles of Modernity

American Writers in the Age of Development

Guy J Reynolds

Publication Year: 2008

Following World War II, Americans entertained a far more international political, cultural, and intellectual awareness as well as a greater fascination with development, progress, and modernity than ever before. In a revisionist account that takes "development" as its main theme, Guy Reynolds charts the responses of novelists, travel writers, and literary intellectuals to the nation’s deepening engagement in world affairs. Reynolds remaps recent literary history featuring authors as diverse as James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, Paul Bowles, Pearl Buck, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ernest Hemingway, Peter Matthiessen, Richard Powers, Susan Sontag, and Richard Wright.
Apostles of Modernity offers an original, in-depth study of the literary manifestations of this period of globalism in novels, memoirs, essays, reportage, and political commentary. Through close readings of texts Reynolds revisits and reassesses U.S. internationalism, showing how writers and intellectuals engaged with a cluster of topics: decolonization, the rise of the Third World, Islamic difference, the end of European empires, China’s enduring significance, and transatlantic and cosmopolitan identities. Throughout, the ideals of the United States as "apostle of modernity" and sponsor of "development" feature as central to American letters in the decades after World War II.
A major contribution to the study of literary internationalism, Apostles of Modernity establishes new paradigms for understanding America’s place in the world and the world’s place in America.

Published by: University of Nebraska Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii

Many readers have helped me over the years, on both sides of the Atlantic. At the University of Kent, members of the Centre for American Studies deepened my understanding of postwar U.S. culture: the late Christine Bolt, George Conyne, Henry Claridge, David Herd, and David Turley. I am grateful to Kent's English department for its encouragement of this ...

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1. The American Writer and Development: Contexts of Cultural Internationalism

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pp. 1-26

Idly, I picked up the evening's newspaper that lay folded near me upon a table and began thumbing through it. Then I was staring at a news item that baffled me. I bent forward and read the item a second time. Twenty-nine free and independent nations of Asia and Africa are meeting in Bandung, Indonesia, to discuss "racialism and ...

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2. The "Skin Game": Du Bois, Wright, Malcom X, Baldwin

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pp. 27-54

In a 1915 Atlantic Monthly essay, "The African Roots of War," W. E. B. Du Bois applied a presciently globalized analysis to the capitalist exploitation of Africa: "The present world war is, then, the result of jealousies engendered by the recent rise of armed national associations of labor and capital whose aim is the exploitation of the wealth of the world ...

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3. "You were in on the last days of Morocco": Paul Bowles and the End of Empire

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pp. 55-80

The fascination and importance of Paul Bowles's work lies in its catholic encompassing of a range of discourses that frame the encounter between the United States (as embodied in the American traveler in North Africa) and Islam. His life and work in Morocco as a novelist, translator, photographer, and ethnographer form one of the broadest and most ...

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4. Sinophilia: China and the Writers

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pp. 81-102

What had China been? Yearning, one needful commingled entity looking towards the West, its great democratic President, Chiang Kai-shek, who had led the Chinese people through the years of war, now into the years of peace, into the Decade of Rebuilding. But for China it was not a rebuilding, for that almost supernaturally vast fl at ...

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5. Nonalignment and Writing: Rich Lands and Poor

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pp. 103-126

Walter LaFeber notes in an essay on postwar American foreign policy the "ironic legacy" of decolonization: "Americans, to paraphrase St. Augustine's famous prayer, have often demanded decolonization, but then added they do not want it quite yet."1 Roosevelt had been famously dismissive of Empire, and was shocked by what he saw in West Africa in ...

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6. Stone Ages: Peter Matthiessen and Susan Sontag in Latin America and Asia

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pp. 127-152

In a recent study of 1950s literary culture, Morris Dickstein argues for the complexity of an often-caricatured period. "American culture in the fifties was staid and repressive at the center," he writes, "in its treatment of women, for example, or its range of political debate, but there was also a liberal idealism that survived from the New Deal and the War." ...

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7. African American Representations of the Hispanic: Remaking Europe

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pp. 153-174

In Color and Democracy Du Bois described the Spanish empire's decline and positioned Spain as a political frontera, a borderline state where European glory and failure shone: "Spain illustrates the interaction between European labor and colonial slavery, between democracy and oligarchy. Today the valiant ancient heart of Spain lies near death, ...

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8. Ugly Americans and Vanishing Europeans: American Presence, European Decolonization

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pp. 175-198

The world has changed a great deal since Richard Wright flew to Indonesia and Paul Bowles drove around Morocco in a chauffeured Bentley. What E. P. Thompson termed the "enormous condescension of posterity" makes it tempting to emphasize the mistakes these writers made when they created their accounts of the post-European, decolonizing ...

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9. "These great new times": Cosmopolitanism and Contemporary Writing

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pp. 199-222

In his 1991 study (a compound of travelogue, memoir, and political essay), Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World, David Rieff surveyed a culture undergoing social and economic transformation: “I walked through the streets of New York, and of half a dozen other American cities as well, and the colors of the skin of the people I passed were ones ...


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pp. 223-256


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pp. 257-268

E-ISBN-13: 9780803216464
E-ISBN-10: 0803216467

Publication Year: 2008