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In: Politics and Cultures of Liberation
In: The Rhetoric of Canadian Writing

In this essay I examine the extent to which Malcolm Cowley’s mid-century efforts on behalf of ‘the making of American literature’ – as critic, editor, publisher’s advisor and literary gatekeeper – dovetailed with the aims of U.S. cultural diplomacy and (wittingly or unwittingly) played a part in the ‘cultural Cold War’. I analyze in particular ‘American Books Abroad’, Cowley’s concluding chapter to Literary History of the United States (1948), and examine his role as guest editor and critic of the Autumn 1953 issue of Perspectives USA, a quarterly launched by James Laughlin of New Directions and funded by the Ford Foundation. The latter aimed to correct a widespread European perception of American culture as imperialist and steeped in mass entertainment, by demonstrating it was at least as highbrow and distinguished as the best of Europe – and an effective beacon of individual freedom against totalitarian communism.

Open Access
In: International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity
In: Uneasy Alliance
Twentieth-Century American Literature, Culture and Biography
Volume Editor:
Uneasy Alliance illuminates the recent search in literary studies for a new interface between textual and contextual readings. Written in tribute to G.A.M. Janssens, the twenty-one essays in the volume exemplify a renewed awareness of the paradoxical nature of literary texts both as works of literary art and as documents embedded in and functioning within a writer’s life and culture. Together they offer fresh and often interdisciplinary perspectives on twentieth-century American writers of more or less established status (Henry James, Edna St. Vincent Millay, E.E. Cummings, Vladimir Nabokov, Flannery O’Connor, Saul Bellow, Michael Ondaatje, Toni Morrison and Sandra Cisneros) as well as on those who, for reasons of fashion, politics, ideology, or gender, have been unduly neglected (Booth Tarkington, Julia Peterkin, Robert Coates, Martha Gellhorn, Isabella Gardner, Karl Shapiro, the young Jewish-American writers, Julia Alvarez, and writers of popular crime and detective fiction). Exploring the fruitful interactions and uneasy alliance between literature and ethics, film, biography, gender studies, popular culture, avant-garde art, urban studies, anthropology and multicultural studies, together these essays testify to the ongoing pertinence of an approach to literature that is undogmatic, sensitive and sophisticated and that seeks to do justice to the complex interweavings of literature, culture and biography in twentieth-century American writing.
In: Politics and Cultures of Liberation
In: Politics and Cultures of Liberation
In: Politics and Cultures of Liberation
In: Politics and Cultures of Liberation
In: Politics and Cultures of Liberation