Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Good essay on literature and politics

One of the best pieces of writing I've come across over the years on the relationship between literature and politics is an essay by Joseph Freeman, written as an introduction for the 1935 anthology Proletarian Literarure in the United States edited by Granville Hicks, et al.

The anthology itself, out of print for decades, is itself one of the better collections of politically radical writing from the period. Freeman's highly insightful introduction is available online, in the Modern American Poetry website hosted by Cary Nelson at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne.

Joseph Freeman's Introduction to the anthology is here. (At the top of the page is the text from the book jacket flaps; scroll down a little for the text of the Introduction.)

The main page for Joseph Freeman (in the Modern American Poetry website) is here.

For anyone who's not familiar, the main page of the Modern American Poetry website is here.

The host of the website, Cary Nelson, has written a couple of effective literary historical and critical works I found informative

Repression and Recovery: Modern American Poetry and the Politics of Cultural Memory, 1910-1945 (University of Wisconsin Press, 1992), offers a broad and detailed survey of American poetry of the period; Nelson gives most of his attention to poetry that the entrenched academic and critical establishments over the decades have chosen to omit from reading lists, syllabi, and the recognized "canon" in general, whether for reasons of left-wing political content of the writing, or because of the poets' gender or ethnic background, or the experimental or avant-garde character of the work. Although Nelson at times seems to me overly cautious in his critical comments about the more conservative sectors of the academic world, I found the book deeply rewarding and useful. In general, I find it difficult to read literary criticism; I read this book cover to cover and found it hard to put down.

Another book by Cary Nelson, Revolutionary Memory: Recovering the Poetry of the American Left (Routledge, 2001) explores of the work of several of the poets in greater detail. It's well worth reading too.

Revolutionary Memory is a pricey book -- 60 bucks! Luckily they have them used for fifteen. Thanks for these links. I chaecked them out briefly and will spend some more time with them.
Yeah, that price -- yipe! That's for a hardcover edition, though I have a paperback of it, that I found a few years ago, that was a more typical book price. Revolutionary Memory may be out of print at the moment, I didn't find it listed in the publisher's website. That's why I put the Amazon link.
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