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Life After the Avant-Garde: Proletarian Realism, Proletarian Modernism

Hickman, Ben (2017) Life After the Avant-Garde: Proletarian Realism, Proletarian Modernism. Amerikastudien/American Studies, 62 (4). pp. 585-601. ISSN 0340-2827. (KAR id:67018)

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This essay analyses the category of “life” as mobilised by proletarian writing, and through this analysis explores proletarian realism’s relation to Marxism and the avant-garde. Surveying the commitment to everyday life, inherited from avant-gardism, in the work of Michael Gold, Jack Conroy and Langston Hughes, the essay investigates the relation of two central modes of its expression: testimony and allegory. From here the claim is that proletarian realism’s everyday life was defined by two Marxist commitments: to relation and to purpose. In the case of the first, testimony and allegory are brought together to connect the immediate embodied particulars of working life to the wider processes that enforce them. In the second, they are brought together to mobilise this relation towards action. Here we see a bifurcation: on the one hand writing that, anxious to mould its particulars into a meaningful whole, attempts to fix them into an overarching economy in danger of draining its evocations of everyday life of vitality; on the other, writing that makes purpose a subject for thought and literary form and carries everyday life’s dynamism over into committed writing.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: P Language and Literature
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
Depositing User: Ben Hickman
Date Deposited: 14 May 2018 15:45 UTC
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 01:25 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Hickman, Ben:
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