Writers for the Nation
American Literary Modernism
290 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
- Published: April 1999
of American literary modernism as a national conversation about community.
The years between World War I and World War II are commonly
seen as the period when international modernism took hold in American art.
C. Barry Chabot, however, argues against the assumption that American modernist
writers were preoccupied by artistic innovation and thus indifferent to
national social and political life.
Chabot shows that American literary modernists participated
actively in a broad conversation about ways to restore or create feelings
of belonging among their contemporaries who believed that life was becoming
increasingly abrasive and that the United States no longer afforded its
citizens a viable sense of community. Although each writer identified this
loss of community, each described it in somewhat different terms, ascribed
to it different causes, and differed in ways to redress it. Writers for
the Nation reconstructs the contributions of representative American modernists
to this national conversation.
Through careful readings of a select few
authors--including Willa Cather, T. S. Eliot, Allen Tate, Jessie Fauset,
Langston Hughes, and Wallace Stevens--Chabot demonstrates how these writers
understood the social situation, how they proposed to correct it, and how
each proposed remedy contained its own limitations. He presents affinities
among writers usually assumed to have little in common, writers who all
produced powerful variants on American literary modernism.