Literature, Amusement, and Technology in the Great Depression

Overview

Literature, Amusement, and Technology examines the exchange between literature and recreational practices in 1930s America. William Solomon argues that autobiographical writers such as Edward Dahlberg and Henry Miller took aesthetic inspiration from urban manifestations of the carnival spirit: Coney Island amusement parks, burlesque, vaudeville, and the dime museum display of human oddities. More broadly, he demonstrates that the literary projects of the period pivoted around images of grotesquely disfigured ...
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Overview

Literature, Amusement, and Technology examines the exchange between literature and recreational practices in 1930s America. William Solomon argues that autobiographical writers such as Edward Dahlberg and Henry Miller took aesthetic inspiration from urban manifestations of the carnival spirit: Coney Island amusement parks, burlesque, vaudeville, and the dime museum display of human oddities. More broadly, he demonstrates that the literary projects of the period pivoted around images of grotesquely disfigured bodies which appeared as part of this recreational culture. Figures of corporeal fragmentation also proved important to novelists such as Nathanael West and John Dos Passos who were concerned to resist the ideological force of such spectacular forms of mass entertainment as the World's Fairs, Hollywood film, and military ceremonies. Psychic, social, aesthetic, and political tensions were thus managed in Depression-era American literature in relation to communal modes of play. This study will appeal to scholars of twentieth-century American literature and culture.
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Solomon (English and American studies, Stanford U.) detaches the 1930s from the various narrative contexts into which previous commentators have implicitly or explicitly inserted it. He warns that his approach may make the decade initially more difficult to comprehend, but promises that interesting features emerge that would not otherwise be visible. Among the writers he looks at are Edward Dahlberg, Henry Miller, Nathanael West, and John Dos Passos. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
From the Publisher
"Along the way Soloman recuperates the reputation of an important writer (Dahlberg), offers an illuminating reading of Nelson Algren's novel Somebody in Boots, and meditates on the language of James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. Supplemented with extensive notes, this is a theoretically sophisticated and engagingly written analysis. Highly recommended." Choice
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Product Details

Meet the Author

William Solomon is Assistant Professor in the Departments of English and American Studies at Stanford University. He has published essays in American Literature, Texas Studies in Language and Literature, and Style. This is his first book.

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Table of Contents

List of illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Disfigurations 1
1 Disinterring Edward Dahlberg 34
2 Laughter and Depression: Henry Miller and the emergence of the technocarnivalesque 74
Intermission: Vulgar Marxism 117
3 Fascism and fragmentation in Nathanael West 140
4 Militarism and mutilation in John Dos Passos 178
Postface: Discharges 228
Notes 235
Index 266
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