In Modernism, Mass Culture and Professionalism Thomas Strychacz argues that modernist writers need to be understood both in their relationship to professional critics and in their relationship to an era and ethos of professionalism. In studying four modernist writers--Henry James, Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos and Nathanael West--Strychacz finds that contrary to what most studies suggest, modernist writers (in the period of 1880-1940) are thoroughly caught up in the ideas and expressive forms of mass culture rather than opposed to them. Despite this, modernist writers seek to distinguish their ideas and styles from mass culture, particularly by making their works esoteric. In doing so, modernist writers are reproducing one of the main tenets of all professional groups, which is to gain social authority by forming a community around a difficult language inaccessible to the public at large. While their modernism arises out of the nature of their encounter with mass culture, that encounter frequently overturns commonly-held notions of the nature of modernism. Finally Strychacz explores his own world of academia and observes that the work of professional critics in the university reproduces the strategies of modernist writers.
"...a penetrating analysis of the strategies of professionalism adopted by the modernists to legitimate their works and the symbolc role played by the academy in that legitimation...Strychacz's readings of these canonical modernist works constitute a powerful refutation of the vision of modernist writing as an elite literature that sets itself apart from mass culture in all its forms." Paula Geyh, Contemporary Literature "...how do the specialized modes of reading typically required by modernist texts come into being within those texts themselves? That he can pursue this question...is a credit to the author's originality and nerve. And to accomplish this in sprightly prose is no mean feat, either. If, in the end, we are left with chickens and eggs, our appreciation of the poultry is nevertheless enhanced by this stimulating analysis." Michael Anesko, American Literature "Strychacz arrives at this conclusion after a very informed and informing debate that, in its implications, goes far beyond the frame set by the book's title and provides stimulus for further discussion."
Series: Cambridge Studies in American Literature and Culture
Number Of Pages: 242
Published: 30th July 1993
Publisher: CAMBRIDGE UNIV PR
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 24.13 x 16.51
Weight (kg): 0.57