DOS PASSOS’S U.S.A. THROUGH THE LENS OF LEFT-WING PUBLICATIONS IN THE USSR

Stefanos Despotis

Abstract


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.

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Keywords


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

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.46827/ejls.v2i2.224

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