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160 the minnesota review stiU lack the studies that would apply to historical events Sartre's theory of history as the formation and deformation of social groups). Even more, there is little information in Alexander on the practical uses of the films that were made: who saw them, how were they discussed? Instead, all we get are quotations from reviews in the establishment press of the time, and information on box-office success, as if either of these tells us anything about the films' poUtical effectiveness — again, Alexander takes refuge in traditional conceptions of film historiography. Finally, then, the problem is not just what Alexander does with his facts but what his inadequate theorization does to the initial selection of facts: even on the level of "hard" information , Alexander's study emphasizes the wrong things. Recently, Stephen Heath has argued, with specific reference to film history, that historywriting has to be more than just a search for facts of the past (for this creates the idealist myth that our historical methods can be transparent conduits to that past), that these facts only finally matter within the concepts that know them: "effective memory will not be a function of the past but of the present, will be a production . . . Any relation of history in cinema risks simply reactionary effects if not passed through reflection on the current reality of such a practice" ("Contexts," Questions ofCinema). Alexander hopes that to give us people and places is to give us the sense of history, but all we end up with is an unreflected fiction. The history of the cinema, a history not only ofpractice but as practice, remains to be written. DANA POLAN Robert C. Rosen, John Dos Passos: Politics and the Writer. University of Nebraska Press, 1981. 191 pp. $18.50. The career of John Dos Passos has always seemed to represent a somewhat larger curve: from the novelist who urged Marxists to "Americanize Marx" in 1930 and then produced U.S.A., to the enthusiastic supporter of Barry Goldwater in 1964 who produced the "mean-spirited carping" of the later novels. What are we to make of this radical parabola? Leftists praised U.S.A. and ignored what followed; conservatives excused the "youthful enthusiasm" of the early novels and lauded the later Dos Passos for finally becoming what he always was. Most critics took the easiest way out, by separating Dos Passos's politics from his fiction and writing limp analyses of the novels. The major contribution of John Dos Passos: Politics and the Writer is in "considering the entire body of Dos Passos's writing and insisting on the importance to understanding his fiction ofa detailed analysis of his evolving political thought." For Rosen, "A criticism that fails or refuses seriously to engage itself with the poUtical content of Dos Passos's work will miss what makes his fiction so often exciting and valuable." Drawing on the recent work of Townsend Ludington (whose biography of Dos Passos Rosen used in manuscript) and other studies of Dos Passos's political thought (like John Diggins's Up from Communism ), Rosen has put Dos Passos's fiction back into the context of his life, his political thought, and the history he knew. The result is the best short critical study of Dos Passos we have. In three chapters of about fifty pages each (plus another forty pages of notes and bibliography), Rosen details the three periods of Dos Passos's life and examines the major works that appeared in each: from Manhattan Transfer of the "individualist rebel" before 1925, through the "Ubertarian socialist" of U.S.A. in the 1930s, to the Jeffersonian democrat and, finally, conservative Republican of Mtdcentury (I96I) and at his death in 1970. It is in the actual analyses of the novels where Rosen's broad, interdisciplinary perspective pays off. On the one hand, it allows him to see the "complex relationship between political ideology and literary form" (why, for example, "While Mtdcentury reproduced the form of U.S.A., it failed to capture its energy and excitement." But on the other hand this perspective allows Rosen to recognize the continuity in Dos Passos's career — the 'intense individualism...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2157-4189
Print ISSN
0026-5667
Pages
pp. 160-161
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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