This article critiques and extends Walter Kalaidjian's reading of Edwin Rolfe's "Are You Now or Have You Ever Been" and "Letter" (College Literature 24.3). These two poems, and Rolfe's Cold War-era poetry more generally, offer more than melancholy laments over the repression of 1930s Left avant-garde commitments and the heady idealism of Popular Front mass culture sociability from 1950s contemporaneous cultural memory. They also offer complex theoretical meditations on cultural memory and historicity which anticipate contemporary cultural studies theories of hegemony and rearticulation—these are lyric meditations which locate glimpses of new Left progressive possibilities emerging from within the dark terrain of McCarthyite paranoia and repression. Rolfe's poems brilliantly deploy double-voiced modernist ironies in order to, as Michael Rothberg defines the goal of traumatic realism, "explore the intersection of the psychic and the social, the discursive and the material, and the extreme and the everyday" (2000, 6).


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pp. 135-147
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