Stefanos Despotis


The subject of this paper was borne out of engagement with the genre of proletarian literature in 1930’s America, the artistic output of the Popular Front era, as well as the multifaceted scholarly debates that surround them. Slightly refining the scope of this investigation, I will be examining John Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy, and situating it within the context of the nuanced interconnection of aesthetics and politics in that era. I wish to argue that U.S.A. became a highly contested space of literary and ideological conflict. Within this space, a wide-ranging and sometimes heated debate on form and content transpires which is inseparable from the political project of socialist construction in the USSR. This debate was held between proponents of the aesthetic movements of modernism and realism, and was intensely present in organs and publications affiliated with these left-wing institutions. Therefore, I divert my attention towards one of these Anglophone publications, namely International Literature, in order to map Dos Passos’s presence within them and gauge the extent to which my hypothesis is legitimate. I will develop an exposition of archival material from this journal which serve the purpose of illuminating the extent to which there was a preoccupation with the work of Dos Passos within the literary circles of the organised Left, as well as outlining the content of the attitudes expressed towards him. This exposition however will necessarily be accompanied by an engagement with the scholarship around this subject, especially taking into consideration the historicity of the scholarship itself; that is to say, the recognition of historical limitations within the scholarship, as well as the attempt to supersede these limitations by more recent critical works.

Article visualizations:

Hit counter


left-wing criticism, USSR, debates on form, international literature, John Dos Passos

Full Text:



Aseyev, N. (1933). Song of the 42nd Parallel. International Literature, 4, 68-69.

Brown, D. (1953). Dos Passos in Soviet Criticism. Comparative Literature, 4(5) 332-350.

Brown, D. (1962). Soviet Attitudes Toward American Writing. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Dinamov, S. (1933). Contemporary Capitalism and Literature. International Literature, 3, 369-387.

Dos Passos, J. (1996) U.S.A. New York: Library of America.

Foley, B. (1993). Radical Representations: Politics and Form in U.S. Proletarian Fiction, 1929-1941. Durham: Duke University Press.

Hicks, G. (1933). Problems of American Fellow Travellers: Notes on American Novelists, Poets and Critics. International Literature, 3, 106-109.

Hicks, G. (1950. The Politics of John Dos Passos. The Antioch Review, 10(1), 85-98.

Pavlenko. P., & Selvinsky, K. (1932). Open Letter to John Dos Passos International Literature, 2(3), 109.

Salton-Cox, G. (2017). “Polemics Pertinent at the Time of Publication”: Georg Lukács, International Literature, and the Popular Front. Twentieth Century Communism, 12, 143-168.

Soviet Literature and Dos Passos. (1933). Introduction. International Literature, 5, 103-112.

Steiger, A. (1936). American Authors Popular in Soviet Russia. International Literature, 3, 99-101.

Wald, A. (1993). Culture and Commitment: U.S Communist Writers Reconsidered. In M. E. Brown (ed.) New Studies in the Politics and Culture of U.S Communism (281-305). New York: Monthly Review Press.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The research works published in this journal are free to be accessed. They can be shared (copied and redistributed in any medium or format) and\or adapted (remixed, transformed, and built upon the material for any purpose, commercially and\or not commercially) under the following terms: attribution (appropriate credit must be given indicating original authors, research work name and publication name mentioning if changes were made) and without adding additional restrictions (without restricting others from doing anything the actual license permits). Authors retain the full copyright of their published research works and cannot revoke these freedoms as long as the license terms are followed.

Copyright © 2018. European Journal of Literary Studies (ISSN 2601-971X / ISSN-L 2601-971X). All rights reserved.

This journal is a serial publication uniquely identified by an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) serial number certificate issued by Romanian National Library. All the research works are uniquely identified by a CrossRef DOI digital object identifier supplied by indexing and repository platforms. All the research works published on this journal are meeting the Open Access Publishing requirements and standards formulated by Budapest Open Access Initiative (2002), the Bethesda Statement on Open Access Publishing (2003) and Berlin Declaration on Open Access to Knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities (2003) and can be freely accessed, shared, modified, distributed and used in educational, commercial and non-commercial purposes under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Copyrights of the published research works are retained by authors.