Radical Representations

Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929–1941

Radical Representations

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 484 Illustrations: Published: September 1993

Author: Barbara Foley

American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

In this revisionary study, Barbara Foley challenges prevalent myths about left-wing culture in the Depression-era U.S. Focusing on a broad range of proletarian novels and little-known archival material, the author recaptures an important literature and rewrites a segment of American cultural history long obscured and distorted by the anti-Communist bias of contemporaries and critics.
Josephine Herbst, William Attaway, Jack Conroy, Thomas Bell and Tillie Olsen, are among the radical writers whose work Foley reexamines. Her fresh approach to the U.S. radicals' debates over experimentalism, the relation of art to propaganda, and the nature of proletarian literature recasts the relation of writers to the organized left. Her grasp of the left's positions on the "Negro question" and the "woman question" enables a nuanced analysis of the relation of class to race and gender in the proletarian novel. Moreover, examining the articulation of political doctrine in different novelistic modes, Foley develops a model for discussing the interplay between politics and literary conventions and genres.
Radical Representations recovers a literature of theoretical and artistic value meriting renewed attention form those interested in American literature, American studies, the U. S. left, and cultural studies generally.


Radical Representations breaks ground not only by offering new ways to read and categorize proletarian texts but also by calling into question what everybody thinks they know about the genre, its origins and motives.” — Lillian S. Robinson, The Nation

"[Foley] substantially refutes the received wisdom that writers within the Communist Party and its periphery produced a degraded, politically compromised body of work because they followed a formula dictated from the party leadership. I cannot imagine anyone interested in politics and literature not taking this book as required reading. It will also be of great interest to American Studies, Cultural Studies and historians and sociologists of culture." — Stanley Aronowitz, CUNY Graduate Center

"Foley succeeds admirably in demonstrating that the proletarian novel is indeed worth reexamining from a variety of points of view as an essential way in which we may understand the American 1930s more accurately. This is a really important book in its field, a field wide enough to include not only literature, but history and politics." — Walter Rideout, University of Wisconsin, Madison


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Barbara Foley is Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark Campus.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Part One

1. The Legacy of Anti-Communism 3

2. Influences on American Proletarian Literature 44

3. Defining Proletarian Litearture 86

4. Art or Propaganda? 129

5. Race, Class, and the "Negro Question" 170

6. Women and the Left in the 1930s 213

Part Two

7. Realism and Didacticism in Proletarian Fiction 249

8. The Proletarian Fictional Autobiography 284

9. The Proletarian Bildungsroman 321

10. The Proletarian Social Novel 362

11. The Collective Novel 398

Afterword 443

Index 447
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Winner, 1995 Choice Outstanding Academics Books

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1394-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1361-8
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