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American Modernism and Depression Documentary


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction: Plausible Fictions of the Real 1: From "Culture" to "Cultural Work": Literature and Labor Between the Wars 2: The Road to Somewhere: Locating Knowledge in Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Bourke-White's You Have Seen Their Faces (1937) 3: Moving Violations: Stasis and Mobility in James Agee's and Walker Evans's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) 4: From Eye to We: Richard Wright's 12 Million Black Voices, Documentary, and Pedagogy 5: "We Americans": Henry Luce, Life, and the Mind-Guided Camera Epilogue: Depression Documentary and the Knot of History Works Cited Index

About the Author

Jeff Allred is Assistant Professor of English, Hunter College, CUNY.


"Allred's work is well supported by detailed analysis of Depression-era photos and text. Recommended." --Choice "Rather than a critique of a genre, we are presented with a redefinition of form, content, and, most importantly, the daunting import that expressive creativity exercised during a major historical period in the making of America. We are persuaded that what we have critically encoded as 'them' or 'they' turns out to be, definitively, 'we' or 'us.' Old distinctions between the masses and the rest of us are eradicated. Allred's reading of Richard Wright and the 'knot' of race is brilliant."-Houston Baker, Vanderbilt University "Allred's book offers an impressive new take on the Depression-era documentary that dispenses with the sentimentality and commitment to realism that surrounds much criticism of this genre. More significantly, he offers a way to read documentary not as an interruption of modernist experimentation, but as an integral part of it."-Susan Hegeman, University of Florida "American Modernism and Depression Documentary is a stirring investigation of the 'aesthetics of interruption' of 1930s-era documentary books. In sparkling, incisive, and lapidary prose, Jeff Allred luminously navigates the fissure between modernism and documentary forms, eloquently accentuating the tension between the photographic image and the surrounding text in the framework of the politics and culture of the Great Depression."-Alan Wald, University of Michigan

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