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Title: William Carlos Williams in the 1930s
Author: Tucker, R. L. G.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5362 2663
Awarding Body: University College London (University of London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2014
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The subject of this thesis is William Carlos Williams and the circle of writers around him in the 1930s. During this decade Williams was a key figure in the formation of an alternative left-wing American canon, and active in a group that included Nathanael West, Louis Zukofsky and Kenneth Burke. This thesis explores the political and aesthetic grounds on which that canon was constructed. The assumption that Williams was already a successful writer after Spring and All (1923) has often led to a disproportionate emphasis on his poetry and the ‘modernist’ aspects of his aesthetics. This thesis makes the case for the significance of Williams’ 1930s prose writings in the growth of the Proletarian Literature movement, and challenges the assumption that ‘Marxist’ literature of the 1930s was at odds with ‘modernist’ literature of the 1920s. I investigate the key concepts of Williams’ own aesthetic philosophy, ‘Objectivism,’ ‘Pragmatism,’ ‘Contact,’ and ‘Localism,’ and show how these concepts became politicized during the 1930s. By exploring the relationship between art and politics, and the ways in which Williams was radicalized by the Great Depression, this thesis attempts to expand critical notions of ‘radicalism’ to include a broader New Deal alliance between traditional democratic liberalism and Marxist economic determinism. Focusing on concepts of ‘Nativism’ and ‘Americanism,’ this thesis also charts America’s burgeoning cultural nationalism during the 1930s, and demonstrates how America’s founding values were challenged by political, economic and social upheaval in the wake of the Depression. By locating Williams’ desire for radical economic change within the context of the Jeffersonian movement, I demonstrate how a historical assessment of America’s past led Williams and the writers mentioned above to question America’s attitudes towards individualism, the redistribution of wealth, the forces of corruption and plutocracy, and the effectiveness of democracy to bring about social justice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available