America the Middlebrow
Women's Novels, Progressivism, and the Middlebrow Authorship between the Wars
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
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Table of Contents
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For nurturing this project in its early stages, I am grateful to Miles Orvell, Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Carolyn Karcher, Robert Caserio, and Laura Levitt. Miles Orvell has been an ideal mentor, giving me a model of scholarship. Many institutions have helped support the development of this manuscript. A 1997 seminar on the history of the book at the American ...
Introduction: A Genealogy of Political Domestic Fiction
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In 1942, Sinclair Lewis wrote approving prefatory remarks to Paxton Hibben’s debunking biography of Henry Ward Beecher, the antebellum abolitionist preacher who, Lewis believed, bore a striking resemblance to his own Elmer Gantry. In an aside, Lewis sums up Beecher’s more famous sister, Harriet Beecher Stowe, pithily: “Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the first ...
Chapter One: Progressive Middlebrow: Dorothy Canfield, Reform, and Women’s Magazines
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In 1902, before each became a best- selling novelist, Dorothy Canfield and Willa Cather suffered a catastrophic break in their friendship. Cather, preparing her first collection of short stories, The Troll Garden, included one called “The Profile,” based on Evelyn Osbourne, with whom Canfield and Cather had traveled in Europe. When Canfield read the story, she ...
Chapter Two: Miscegenating Middlebrow: Jessie Fauset and the “Authentic” Black Middle Class
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In 1933, after reading Alain Locke’s review of her fourth and last novel, Comedy: American Style, Jessie Fauset fired oﬀ a scathing letter, capping at least a decade of resentment and competitive hostility, which said in part:I have always disliked your attitude toward my work dating from the time years ago when you went out of your way to tell my brother that ...
Chapter Three: Multicultural Middlebrow: P earl Buck and the Liberal Iconography of The Good Earth
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On 3 August 1932, two hundred people, the cream of New York’s literary world, gathered at the new Waldorf- Astoria to honor the elusive author of an unexpected best seller—The Good Earth. The novel, by a relatively unknown missionary living in China, had leapt into the national consciousness (and put its publisher, John Day, into sudden solvency) when ...
Chapter Four. Proletarian Middlebrow: Josephine Herbst, Radicalism, and Bourgeois Redemption
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In the 1960s, in response to a query from a professor, Josephine Herbst articulated her vision of reading and writing communities in terms that would have shocked literary critics of the thirties, who had found her If you are teaching work of the thirties I believe it would be important to engage the students and a group and to teach the literature ...
Afterword: Consequences and Transformations
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The interwar convergence of women’s novels, middlebrow authorship, and progressivism reached the peak of its influence during the period of the Popular Front. Much has been written about this larger cultural shift to the left in the late 1930s, notably Michael Denning’s The Cultural Front, a massive study of cartoons, musicals, photography, theater, poetry, and ...
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Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2007