New Deal Modernism: American Literature and the Invention of the Welfare State

Duke University Press
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In New Deal Modernism Michael Szalay examines the effect that the rise of the welfare state had on American modernism during the 1930s and 1940s, and, conversely, what difference this revised modernism made to the New Deal’s famed invention of “Big Government.”
Szalay situates his study within a liberal culture bent on security, a culture galvanized by its imagined need for private and public insurance.
Taking up prominent exponents of social and economic security—such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Maynard Keynes, and John Dewey—Szalay demonstrates how the New Deal’s revision of free-market culture required rethinking the political function of aesthetics. Focusing in particular on the modernist fascination with the relation between form and audience, Szalay offers innovative accounts of Busby Berkeley, Jack London, James M. Cain, Robert Frost, Ayn Rand, Betty Smith, and Gertrude Stein, as well as extended analyses of the works of Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and Richard Wright.
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About the author

Michael Szalay is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at University of California, Irvine.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Duke University Press
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Published on
Dec 29, 2000
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Pages
352
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ISBN
9780822381143
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Language
English
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Genres
Literary Criticism / American / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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In this book, Susan Edmunds explores he relationship between modernist domestic fiction and the rise of the U.S. welfare state. This relationship, which began in the Progressive era, emerged as maternalist reformers developed an inverted discourse of social housekeeping in order to call for state protection and regulation of the home. Modernists followed suit, turning the genre of domestic fiction inside out in order to represent new struggles on the border between home, market and state. Edmunds uses the work of Djuna Barnes, Jean Toomer, Tillie Olsen, Edna Ferber, Nathanael West, and Flannery O'Connor to trace the significance of modernists' radical reconstitution of the genre of domestic fiction. Using a grotesque aesthetic of revolutionary inversion, these writers looped their depictions of the domestic sphere through revolutionary discourses associated with socialism, consumerism and the avant-garde. These authors used their grotesque discourses to deal with issues of social conflict ranging from domestic abuse and racial violence to educational reform, public health care, eugenics, and social security. With the New Deal, the U.S. welfare state realized maternalist ambitions to disseminate a modern sentimental version of the home to all white citizens, successfully translating radical bids for collective social security into a racialized order of selective and detached domestic security. The book argues that modernists engaged and contested this historical trajectory from the start. In the process, they forged an enduring set of terms for understanding and negotiating the systemic forms of ambivalence, alienation and conflict that accompany Americans' contemporary investments in "family values."
In the Great Recession of 2007-2009, the United States suffered the most sustained and extensive wave of job destruction since the Great Depression. When families in need sought help from the safety net, however, they found themselves trapped in a system that increasingly tied public assistance to private employment. In The Workfare State, Eva Bertram recounts the compelling history of the evolving social contract from the New Deal to the present to show how a need-based entitlement was replaced with a work-conditioned safety net, heightening the economic vulnerability of many poor families.

The Workfare State challenges the conventional understanding of the development of modern public assistance policy. New Deal and Great Society Democrats expanded federal assistance from the 1930s to the 1960s, according to the standard account. After the 1980 election, the tide turned and Republicans ushered in a new conservative era in welfare politics. Bertram argues that the decisive political struggles took place in the 1960s and 1970s, when Southern Democrats in Congress sought to redefine the purposes of public assistance in ways that would preserve their region's political, economic, and racial order. She tells the story of how the South—the region with the nation's highest levels of poverty and inequality and least generous social welfare policies—won the fight to rewrite America's antipoverty policy in the decades between the Great Society and the 1996 welfare reform. Their successes provided the foundation for leaders in both parties to build the contemporary workfare state—just as deindustrialization and global economic competition made low-wage jobs less effective at providing income security and mobility.

A landmark American drama that inspired a classic film and a Broadway revival—featuring an introduction by David Mamet

A blistering character study and an examination of the American melting pot and the judicial system that keeps it in check, Twelve Angry Men holds at its core a deeply patriotic faith in the U.S. legal system. The play centers on Juror Eight, who is at first the sole holdout in an 11-1 guilty vote. Eight sets his sights not on proving the other jurors wrong but rather on getting them to look at the situation in a clear-eyed way not affected by their personal prejudices or biases. Reginald Rose deliberately and carefully peels away the layers of artifice from the men and allows a fuller picture to form of them—and of America, at its best and worst.
 
After the critically acclaimed teleplay aired in 1954, this landmark American drama went on to become a cinematic masterpiece in 1957 starring Henry Fonda, for which Rose wrote the adaptation. More recently, Twelve Angry Men had a successful, and award-winning, run on Broadway.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Controversy over what role “the great books” should play in college curricula and questions about who defines “the literary canon” are at the forefront of debates in higher education. The Politics of Liberal Education enters this discussion with a sophisticated defense of educational reform in response to attacks by academic traditionalists. The authors here—themselves distinguished scholars and educators—share the belief that American schools, colleges, and universities can do a far better job of educating the nation’s increasingly diverse population and that the liberal arts must play a central role in providing students with the resources they need to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
Within this area of consensus, however, the contributors display a wide range of approaches, illuminating the issues from the perspectives of their particular disciplines—classics, education, English, history, and philosophy, among others—and their individual experiences as teachers. Among the topics they discuss are canon-formation in the ancient world, the idea of a “common culture,” and the educational implications of such social movements as feminism, technological changes including computers and television, and intellectual developments such as “theory.” Readers interested in the controversies over American education will find this volume an informed alternative to sensationalized treatments of these issues.

Contributors. Stanley Fish, Phyllis Franklin, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Henry A. Giroux, Darryl J. Gless, Gerald Graff, Barbara Herrnstein Smith, George A. Kennedy, Bruce Kuklick, Richard A. Lanham, Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich, Alexander Nehamas, Mary Louise Pratt, Richard Rorty, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

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