Lineages of the Literary Left: Essays in Honor of Alan M. Wald

Howard Brick, Robbie Lieberman, and Paula Rabinowitz, Editors

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ISBN: 978-1-60785-345-9eISBN: 978-1-60785-344-2

For nearly half a century, Alan M. Wald’s pathbreaking research has demonstrated that attention to the complex lived experiences of writers on the Left provides a new context for viewing major achievements as well as instructive minor ones in United States fiction, poetry, drama, and criticism. His many publications have illuminated the creative lives of figures such as James T. Farrell, Willard Motley, Muriel Rukeyser, Philip Rahv, Richard Wright, Ann Petry, Kenneth Fearing, and Arthur Miller. He has delved into a consideration of Sidney Hook and pragmatism, brought attention to debates within tendencies associated with Cannonism and Shachtmanism, and developed a theory of Popular Front culture. His investigations have opened the archives of Irving Howe, Sol Funaroff, Alfred Hayes, Paule Marshall, Sherry Mangan, Samuel Sillen, and Rebecca Pitts. Wald’s magisterial studies in modern American culture have also led to the rediscovery of unduly neglected writers including lesbians and gays across the Left.

The essays in this volume in honor of Alan M. Wald investigate aspects of intellectual, literary, and cultural movements and figures associated with left-wing politics beginning in the early twentieth century and continuing into our own time. Intimately linked with social struggle, the thinkers and actors analyzed in these diverse essays can be collectively understood to form the intertwined lineages of the Literary Left. Moreover, the critics and historians participating in this tribute–including contributors Tariq Ali, Michael Löwy, Rachel Rubin, Dayo Gore and many others, attest to the varied lineages comprising myriad scholarly traditions as well. The collection stresses “lineages” and “traditions” in the plural, to indicate the multiple tendencies, fields and methods that serve to expand notions of the Literary Left.

“Alan Wald has been the most important teacher of every generation of historians of US cultural radicalism hatched since the 1970s—this despite the various names on our university diplomas and the alphabet soup of acronyms marking our numerous political commitments. Lineages of the Literary Left demonstrates why the common debt to Wald has been an excellent thing. Its twenty essays tackle a heady range of subjects—from Harlem boxing pulp to Japanese proletarianism, from mass dance to world systems theory—but all reflect Wald’s characteristic blend of humane detail and expansive historical imagination. Wald’s concluding autobiographical reflection, meanwhile, is itself worth the price of admission.”

—William J. Maxwell, Professor of English and African American Studies, Washington University in St. Louis

“As the doyen of radical literary studies, Alan Wald demonstrated that Marxisms (plural) and other Left thought were as dominant an influence in twentieth-century US culture as Transcendentalism had been in the nine- teenth century. This festschrift of some 20 essays on the works of poets, novelists, and the lives of many of them adds to his legacy while following what the editors term his “ecumenical approach.” A valuable contribution to the radical and critical tradition in American letters and life.”

—Jules Chametzky, Professor Emeritus of English, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“Wald has long been our sure-footed guide through the thickets of Left literary and intellectual history. No one knows the convoluted political landscape of the 1930s (or its many legacies) as well as he does. By so comprehensively extending the lines of inquiry he set in motion, this volume is a fitting tribute to his tireless work.”

—Andrea Ross, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, New York University

Howard Brick is Louis Evans Professor of History at the University of Michigan.

Robbie Lieberman is Professor and Chair in the Interdisciplinary Studies Department at Kennesaw State University.

Paula Rabinowitz is Professor of English at the University of Minnesota. Her recent books include American Pulp: How Paperbacks Brought Modernism to Main Street and the co-edited four-volume series Habits of Beings. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature.