American Writers And The SaccoVanzetti Case — страница 2

  • Просмотров 1000
  • Скачиваний 10
  • Размер файла 41

American Bohemia was in revolt against Main Street [High Street], against the power of money, against Victorian morals. Freedom was the theme. … The businessman could never understand. It was part of a worldwide revolt of artists and would-be artists and thinkers and would-be thinkers against a society where most of the rewards went to people skillful in the manipulation of money … When artists and writers found it hard to make themselves a niche in industrial society, they repudiated the whole business. Greenwich Village was their refuge, the free commune of Montmartre on American soil. Les bourgeois ? la lanterne.[7] Modernism as it has been constructed by major theorists on both the left and the right excludes or marginalizes texts written about the Sacco and Vanzetti case

and the authors who wrote them, partly because such theorists argue about the same writers—e.g., Joyce, Kafka, Eliot–and and partly because critics have tended to understand modernism as either protofascist or apolitical, thereby excluding not only "traditional realism" but also what Fredric Jameson calls "old-fashioned political art of the socialist realist type." In 1969 an Americanist named Maxwell Geismar, describing the reworking of the canon in the 1950s, wrote the following account of its revision by conservatives and New Critics: As a historian of American literature I wondered why all the major figures whom I admired–from Howells and Mark Twain to Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Ellen Glasgow and Thomas Wolfe–were in such eclipse. I wondered why

Melville, a great American radical and social reformer, was being made into such a conservative. … I wondered why Scott Fitzgerald, an attractive novelist of manners at best, was being revived so heavily, while the American Twenties were being glorified … It was then I suddenly realized why Sherwood Anderson, Dreiser, Tom Wolfe, who had all been radical figures of the period, were being read out of American literature. [8] In both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, novels critical of the existing social structure, with its restricted distribution of wealth and power and concomitant injustices, tended toward realism and naturalism. Proponents of this art considered accessibility, sentiment, and realism necessary political weapons in the arsenal of opposition. Members of

the Frankfurt School debated the efficacy of such artistic strategies; Bertolt Brecht and Theodor Adorno argued that these tactics, having been coopted by the "culture industry," were not conducive to the demystification of social structures. While his fellow Marxist Georg Luk?cs condemned modernism for its complicity with the dissolution of the subject and social relations under capitalism, Adorno attacked American mass culture, arguing that "hermetic works can be, and are, more critical of the status quo than those that go in for tangible social criticism but in so doing make use of non-radical forms, thus giving tacit recognition to the rampantly flourishing culture industry." [9] When modernism is constructed differently and less narrowly, however, its

politics also appear different. In The Politics of Modernism Raymond Williams argued that canonical modernism is "a highly selected version of the modern"; he urged that critics "search out and counterpose an alternative tradition taken from the neglected works left in the wide margin of the century." [10] Many of these neglected works are implicitly or explicitly engaged with oppositional politics. Both as a historical event and as a neglected issue in 20th-century American literature, the Sacco-Vanzetti case raises a number of interrelated, layered issues: first, the racialized class politics of the trial, with its overt anti-immigrant animus; secondly, the rich history of the trial’s setting, which seemed to underscore the issues of rebellion and freedom;

thirdly, the formal strategies of the writers who attempted to represent the trial, and the way in which assumptions about gender participated in, or were resisted by, those representations; and finally, the current neglect of these texts and others of the period, in a country whose apparently brief historical memory allowed its media to dub the O.J. Simpson case “the trial of the century.” Katherine Anne Porter, John Dos Passos, and Edna St. Vincent Millay were among those who picketed and were arrested at the trial.[11] Porter (1890-1980) was a Texas-born short-story writer and novelist who made a name for herself with her first collection, Flowering Judas (1930). Her most famous novel was Ship of Fools (1962), which she had worked on for two decades; it was made into a