American Radicalism 1925-1955

This seminar looks at texts produced during a socially turbulent thirty-year period in the American experience to determine how radical movements and sentiments are reflected in the literature of that period. For example, Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath examines the plight of migrant workers during the Great Depression; Ellison’s Invisible Man depicts the racial and economic oppression afflicting African-Americans in the postwar period; Lillian Hellman’s drama focuses on the position of women in early to mid-twentieth century American society; and the plays of Clifford Odets constitute the premier example of “agitprop” literature written with the overt and specific purpose of fomenting social change. The consideration of these works and others is firmly grounded in the historical circumstances in which they were written.