432 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 36 halftones
The Literary Left in the Era of the Cold War
American Night, the final volume of an unprecedented trilogy, brings Alan Wald's multigenerational history of Communist writers to a poignant climax. Using new research to explore the intimate lives of novelists, poets, and critics during the Cold War, Wald reveals a radical community longing for the rebirth of the social vision of the 1930s and struggling with a loss of moral certainty as the Communist worldview was being called into question. The resulting literature, Wald shows, is a haunting record of fracture and struggle linked by common structures of feeling, ones more suggestive of the "negative dialectics" of Theodor Adorno than the traditional social realism of the Left.
Establishing new points of contact among Kenneth Fearing, Ann Petry, Alexander Saxton, Richard Wright, Jo Sinclair, Thomas McGrath, and Carlos Bulosan, Wald argues that these writers were in dialogue with psychoanalysis, existentialism, and postwar modernism, often generating moods of piercing emotional acuity and cosmic dissent. He also recounts the contributions of lesser known cultural workers, with a unique accent on gays and lesbians, secular Jews, and people of color. The vexing ambiguities of an era Wald labels "late antifascism" serve to frame an impressive collective biography.
"A solid contribution to American studies, this will be welcomed by literary scholars, historians, and political scientists for its thorough research and wide ranging scholarship."
“The book’s biggest contribution is Wald’s material on homosexuality in the CP and its milieu, in which he examines the related prejudices of the party line and the society it supposedly stood in opposition to.”
"Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduate; graduate students."
"The work of a scholar at the height of his powers. With intensive archival research, oral histories, and extensive reading in primary sources and theoretical approaches, Wald unveils the hidden history of Left culture in the United States."
--Paula Rabinowitz, University of Minnesota
"The dark days of literary radicalism which conclude Wald's magnificent trilogy present their own deep fascinations. Tragedy and irony abound in the writings, and the lives, of the celebrated and too little-known artists whom readers meet. A stunning work of history as well as literary criticism, American Night situates its subject in the Cold War and changes the very ways we think about that period."
--David Roediger, University of Illinois, coauthor, with Elizabeth Esch, of The Production of Difference
"American Night is the capstone of Alan Wald's assiduous archeology of the literary left in the mid-twentieth century. The book explores an era when the organized left, under fire and in disarray, had all but disintegrated, though its influence survived in the feelings and ideals of individual writers. With a zeal for recovering forgotten lives and books, Wald scrupulously reconstructs a largely unknown chapter of our cultural history."
--Morris Dickstein, author of Gates of Eden and Dancing in the Dark
© 2012 The University of North Carolina Press
116 South Boundary Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514-3808
How to Order | Make a Gift | Privacy