The Suburb of Dissent

Cultural Politics in the United States and Canada during the 1930s

The Suburb of Dissent

New Americanists

More about this series

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 6 photographs Published: November 1998

Author: Caren Irr

Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

In The Suburb of Dissent Caren Irr explores the leftist literary subculture of the United States and Canada during the 1930s to reconstruct the ideas of mass culture, class, and nationality that emerged as a result of the Great Depression. Unearthing plots and characters that still surface in contemporary narratives, Irr juxtaposes classic and neglected works of criticism, fiction, poetry, and journalism and demonstrates how leftist writers resisted totalitarianism much more thoroughly than Cold War accounts would suggest.
Irr highlights works by Richard Wright, John Dos Passos, Nathanael West, and others to uncover the complex relationship between American anti-communism and communist anti-Americanism. In an unprecedented move, she extends her inquiry to the work of Canadian intellectuals such as Dorothy Livesay and Hugh MacLennan to reveal the important yet overlooked fact that the territory at the border of the United States and Canada provided a vital contact zone and transnational “home” for leftist thinkers. Attending to intersections of race, ethnicity, and gender, Irr illustrates the ways dissenting writers made culture actively respond to the political crises of the Great Depression and questioned the nature of what it means to be “American.”
Drawing on insights from postcolonial and American studies and taking into account the intellectual and cultural dimensions of leftist politics, The Suburb of Dissent is the first study of the 1930s to bring together U.S. and Canadian writings. In doing so, it reveals how the unique culture of the left contributed to North American history at this critical juncture and beyond.


“[A]n extremely worthy work. . . . [T]he learning and analysis are . . . solid.” — Alexander Bloom , Journal of American History

“[B]road ranging and . . . rich in insights. . . . Irr’s book makes a lasting contribution to the growing body of post-Cold War commentaries on the leftist culture of the Depression decade and beyond.” — Barbara Foley , American Historical Review

“Irr argues that U.S. and Canadian leftist literary culture during the 1930s was not ideologically homogenous; rather, it was multivocal and often as internally conflicted as it was aggressively activist. . . . [A]n interesting contribution to the changing view of 1930s cultural politics.” — Choice

"[A] broad scope. . . . Irr’s project, by and large, succeeds in contesting the scholarly view of the 1930s as a kind of factory of literary solidarity and cloning. . . . [A] valuable regrounding . . . ."

— Tamas Dobozy , Canadian Literature

"[A]ll of Irr’s readings force us to look beyond our stereotypes of the 1930s and to begin the harder work of sorting out the ‘actually existing cultural formations’ that characterized the period. This alone should earn The Suburb of Dissent a place on the bookshelf of those interested either in the 1930s or twentieth-century literary history more generally." — Andrew Hoberek , Modernism/Modernity

“An extraordinary effort. The Suburb of Dissent will have a broad appeal to that growing cohort of scholars interested in ‘revisioning’ the literary 1930s.” — Paul Buhle, New York University

“Irr provides a kaleidoscopic view of the recurring themes dominating 1930s intellectuals’ writings. . . . The Suburb ofDissent will broaden the range of 1930s scholarship by insisting that the literature of American class conflict can only be fully understood comparatively.” — Paula Rabinowitz, University of Minnesota


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Caren Irr is Assistant Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2192-7 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2176-7
Publicity material