The Modernist Nation
Generation, Renaissance, and Twentieth-Century American Literature
Publication Year: 2004
Published by: The University of Alabama Press
Introduction: America, Modernism, and All that Jazz
Imagine for a moment that Ralph Waldo Emerson had been born and raised in the Midwest, say, Cincinnati, and spent the bulk of his writing career in Berlin or Paris: Emerson’s poetry and prose might have assumed another shape and treated entirely different themes; the so-called American Renaissance of the mid–nineteenth century might be known today by another...
PART I: INVENTING THE MODERN
1. Generational Rhetoric and American Avant-Gardism
The monumental and today much-maligned Literary History of the United States (1948) begins with a prominent trope in American literary historiography, one with deep roots: “Each generation should produce at least one literary history of the United States, for each generation must define the past in its own terms” (Spiller et al. vii). Since then virtually every major contribution...
2. Renaissance Rhetoric and American Cultural Nationalism
Can we not build up a national tradition, a national literature, which shall be none the less Irish in spirit from being English in language?. . . America, which has no past to speak of, a mere “parvenue” among nations, is creating a national literature which in its most characteristic products differs almost as much from English literature as does the literature of France. ...
PART II: LIVING THE MODERN
3. American Modernism Is Born: The Rise of the Bohemian Artist Narrative
So no wonder that in certain cities of America, in New York of course, and New Orleans, in Chicago and San Francisco and Los Angeles, in such American cities as Paris and Mexico, D.F., this particular part of a generation was attracted to what the Negro had to offer. In such places as Greenwich Village, a ménage-a-trois was completed—the bohemian and the...
4. The Modernist Generation: Growing Up in the American Race
The previous chapter traced the genealogy of not one but two varieties of bohemian narrative: on the one hand are explicitly autobiographical memoirs, a genre that emerged as a publishing industry staple during the twentieth century; on the other hand are autobiographical novels, a genre with thinly disguised characters and plot elements based on writers’ lives. ...
Epilogue: Good-bye, Jazz Age
In the summer of 1957, Richard Chase, a member of the faculty of Columbia University, published his thoughts on “The Fate of the Avant-Garde” in the Partisan Review, by then one of the few remaining bastions of left criticism in the United States. To anyone already exposed to The American Novel and Its Tradition, which was published that same year, his argument must have...
Publication Year: 2004