American Superrealism: Nathanael West and the Politics of Representation in the 1930s

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Overview

Nathanael West has been hailed as “an apocalyptic writer,” “a writer on the left,” and “a precursor to postmodernism.” But until now no critic has succeeded in fully engaging West’s distinctive method of negation. In American Superrealism, Jonathan Veitch examines West’s letters, short stories, screenplays and novels—some of which are discussed here for the first time—as well as West’s collaboration with William Carlos Williams during their tenure as the editors of Contact. Locating West in a lively, American avant-garde tradition that stretches from Marcel Duchamp to Andy Warhol, Veitch explores the possibilities and limitations of dada and surrealism—the use of readymades, scatalogical humor, human machines, “exquisite corpses”—as modes of social criticism. American Superrealism offers what is surely the definitive study of West, as well as a provocative analysis that reveals the issue of representation as the central concern of Depression-era America.

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jonathan Veitch was professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and  is now chairman of humanities at the New School for Social Research in New York. This is his first book.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Preface
Introduction: Who Can We Shoot? The Crisis of Representation in the 1930s 3
1 American Superrealism 15
2 Euclid's Asshole: The Dream Life of Balso Snell 23
3 "Lousy with Pure / Reeking with Stark": Contact 47
4 The People Talk: Miss Lonelyhearts 67
5 The Folklore of Capitalism: A Cool Million 88
6 The Cliches Are Having a Ball: The Day of the Locust 113
Postscript: Madonna's Bustier; or "The Burning of Los Angeles" 132
Notes 139
Index 175
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