Ethnic Modernism

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In the first half of the twentieth century, the United States moved from the periphery to the center of global cultural production. At the same time, technologies of dissemination evolved rapidly, and versions of modernism emerged as dominant art forms. How did African American, European immigrant, and other minority writers take part in these developments that also transformed the United States, giving it an increasingly multicultural self-awareness? This book attempts to address this question in a series of innovative and engaging close readings of major texts by Gertrude Stein, Mary Antin, Jean Toomer, O. E. Rölvaag, Nathan Asch, Henry Roth, Richard Wright, Zora Neale Hurston, Pietro di Donato, Jerre Mangione, John Hersey, and Leo Szilard, as well as briefer examinations of many other authors and works, against the background of international political developments, the rise of modernism in the visual arts, and the ascendancy of Ernest Hemingway as a model for prose writers.

In many of Werner Sollors’s sensitive readings, single sentences and paragraphs serve as the representative formal units of prose works, while throughout Ethnic Modernism the trolley (now a cute-seeming object of nostalgia) emerges with surprising frequency as a central thematic emblem of modernity.

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Editorial Reviews

Gish Jen
Restless and powerful, Ethnic Modernism does more than reconnect modernism with ethnicity; it recasts modernism entirely. This is vintage Sollors: Out-of-the-box, profound, and brimming with brio.
Darryl Dickson-Carr
Sollors does a great service to the study of literary modernism by placing disparate ethnic literary traditions with in the larger context of American modernism, arguing that as an aggregate, they constitute modernism.
Michael Leja
Evidently Werner Sollors has read everything that was written in the US in the first half of the 20th century. As he did so he paid special attention to issues of ethnicity, class, and race in and around modernist texts canonical and forgotten. The result is an important new literary history of the period, informed by vast erudition and tactful interpretation, ranging gracefully across the visual arts, music, and film, and presented in so lively and engrossing a form that it is hard to put down.
Eric Sundquist
Full of surprising discoveries and exhilarating juxtapositions, Ethnic Modernism demonstrates beyond any doubt that American literature has long since been more multicultural and global than any prevailing definition of the terms would have us believe.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674030916
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 1,033,093
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Werner Sollors is Henry B. and Anne M. Cabot Professor of English Literature and Professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Gertrude Stein and “Negro Sunshine”
  3. Ethnic Lives and Lifelets
  4. Ethnic Themes, Modern Themes
  5. Mary Antin: Progressive Optimism against Odds
  6. Who is “American”?
  7. American Languages
  8. “All the past we leave behind”? Ole E. Rölvaag and the Immigrant Trilogy
  9. Modernism, Ethnic Labeling, and the Quest for Wholeness: Jean Toomer’s New American Race
  10. Freud, Marx, Hard-Boiled
  11. Hemingway Spoken Here
  12. Henry Roth: Ethnicity, Modernity, and Modernism
  13. Brrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinng! The Clock, the Salesman, and the Breast
  14. Immigrant Literature and Totalitarianism
  15. Was Modernism Anti-Totalitarian?
  16. Facing the Extreme
  17. Grand Central Terminal

  • Chronology
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index

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