“A game-changer in American literary studies. Challenges time-worn literary periodization, especially narrow definitions of modernism.”—Susan Tomlinson, coeditor of Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers
“Extends the ongoing rethinking of periodization in exciting ways. A must-read for scholars interested in these volatile decades of U.S. history and in devising more imaginative and productive ways of framing the diverse literature produced during the century’s long turn.”—Cynthia J. Davis, author of Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Biography
The years between 1880 and 1930 are usually seen as a time in which American writers replaced values and traditions of the Victorian era with wholly new works of modernist literature, and the turn of the century is typically used as a dividing line between the old and the new. Challenging this periodization, American Literary History and the Turn toward Modernity argues that this entire time span should instead be studied as a coherent and complex literary field.
The essays in this volume show that these were years of experimentation, negotiation of boundaries, and hybridity—resulting in a true literature of transition. Contributors offer new readings of authors including Jack London, Edith Wharton, and Theodore Dreiser in light of their ties to both the nineteenth-century past and the emerging modernity of the twentieth century. Emphasizing the diversity of the literature of this time, contributors also examine poetry written by and for Native American students in a Westernized boarding school, the changing attitudes of authors toward marriage, turn-of-the-century feminism, dime novels, anthologies edited by late-nineteenth-century female literary historians, and fiction of the Harlem Renaissance.
Calling for readers to look both forward and backward at the cultural contexts of these works and to be mindful of the elastic categories of this era, this volume demonstrates the plurality and the tensions characteristic of American literature during the century’s long turn.
Melanie V. Dawson, associate professor of English at the College of William and Mary, is the author of several books, including Emotional Reinventions: Realist-Era Representations Beyond Sympathy. Meredith L. Goldsmith, professor of English and associate dean at Ursinus College, is coeditor of Edith Wharton and Cosmopolitanism and Middlebrow Moderns: Popular American Women Writers of the 1920s.