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Hard-Boiled Literary History: Labor and Style in Fictions of the Culture Industry

Norman, Will (2018) Hard-Boiled Literary History: Labor and Style in Fictions of the Culture Industry. American Literature, 90 (1). pp. 27-54. ISSN 0002-9831. E-ISSN 1527-2117. (doi:10.1215/00029831-4326391) (KAR id:61704)

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In this article I argue for a new understanding of the term hard-boiled by tracing the relationship between literary style and historical shifts in intellectual labor in the mid-twentieth-century United States. Novels representing the culture industry, such as Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister (1949), Budd Schulberg’s What Makes Sammy Run? (1941), and Frederic Wakeman’s The Hucksters (1946), describe the intellectual labor of producing the commodities on which the industry subsisted, while at the same time struggling to identify and preserve regions of culture as yet unsullied by the market. This tension is crystallized in their distinctive hard-boiled style, understood here as a certain disposition toward the historical process of cultural commodification. Loosened from its genre frame and its associations with the mystery novel, hard-boiled emerges as a richer and more capacious critical term, one that can help us to understand our own work as literary historians.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1215/00029831-4326391
Uncontrolled keywords: 1940s, mystery, Marxism
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PS American literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Will Norman
Date Deposited: 12 May 2017 08:52 UTC
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2020 15:27 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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