"It Never Was America to Me": American Literature During the Great Depression Open Access

Fogg, Ross David (2015)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/sf2685845?locale=en


This Master's thesis examines the ways in which literature focuses on subjects pertinent to the study of the Great Depression like affirmations and disillusionment with the government's response to widespread unemployment; destitute living conditions; loss of faith in public institutions; the concentration of power surrounding the Depression as well as concurrent class divisions; decreased valuation of the individual; portrayals and representations of race; and how the Great Depression and its literature inform current understandings of the Great Recession. The specific literature that this thesis examines includes John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, In Dubious Battle, Of Mice and Men, and Cannery Row. It likewise examines James Agee's and Walker Evans's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; Dale Maharidge's and Michael Williamson's And Their Children After Them; Richard Wright's 12 Million Black Voices; Ernest Hemingway's To Have and Have Not; Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men; poetry by Langston Hughes, William Carlos Williams, and Charles Simic; Philipp Meyer's American Rust; and David Foster Wallace's The Pale King. There are also many sources of historical data, literary theory and criticism ranging from original reviews of the literature presented and present-day analysis.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction: Locating Great Depression Literature 1

Chapter 2. National Identity, Deterioration of Public Institutions, and the Legacy of The Grapes of Wrath 8

Chapter 3. Genre, Documentation, and Systemic Poverty in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men 33

Chapter 4. The "We" Trope and Voicing the Voiceless: 12 Million Black Voices and To Have and Have Not 54

Chapter 5. Great Depression Politics: Competing Ideologies in In Dubious Battle and Concentration of Power in All the King's Men 73

Chapter 6. Depression-era Poetics of William Carlos Williams and Langston Hughes 100

Chapter 7. Complementary Great Depression Narratives in Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and Cannery Row 114

Chapter 8. Conclusion: The Great Depression and the Great Recession 128

Works Cited 142

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