A Theoretical Approach to Modern American History and Literature

A Theoretical Approach to Modern American History and Literature

An Issue of Reconfiguration and Re-representation

By W. Lawrence Hogue

Anthem symploke Studies in Theory

A reconfiguration of modern American history, showing how multiple movements at different times challenged a singularly defined modern America, and a re-representation of the modern American novel, accenting the different critical literary voices to effect a fundamental recasting of the modern Americanist paradigm.

Hardback, 302 Pages


January 2020

£80.00, $125.00

  • About This Book
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  • Author Information
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About This Book

In this book, Hogue re-configures the history of modern America and re-represents the modern American novel, allowing conceptual spaces of race, gender, sex, nature, the non-rational, the non-human, consumption, and class to be critiqued or to be displaced, eventually highlighting that modern American history and literature are not singular. They are much more complex, diverse, heterogeneous, and richer because modern American history is a series of economic, social, anti-colonial, feminist, and political and social movements, levels, and conditions, with a whole interplay of differences. The book explains how, historically and institutionally, in the 1920s and 1930s modern American society and modern American literature have been represented singularly and monoculturally, with modernity breaking with the past/nature/the non-human—animals, plants, the water, the landscape, the non-rational, and/or indifferent forces of nature such as hurricanes.

This book focuses, first, on the transformation of modern American history, literature, and culture, which had begun in the middle of the nineteenth century. The transformation created a new and different and unequal modern American society through a series of events—many of them happening sequentially and simultaneously, the United States in the early 20th century grew into an economic superpower. Second, the book examines the darker side of this unequal modern American society: the legal racial segregation of people of color and the deadly economic exploitation of the working class, women, people of color, colonized nations, incorporated territories and protectorates. Third, it focuses on how vulnerable and marginalized people of color, women, working-class European immigrants, colonized nations, incorporated territories, protectorates, and writers, who were denied justice, difference and equality, resisted, challenged, re-wrote, and transformed this modern America.

The reconfiguration of the history of modern America is explored using Althusser’s concepts of the Repressive State apparatus and the Ideological State apparatuses, and postcolonial, feminist, psychoanalytical, deconstructive, cultural theories and Foucault/Deleuze’s notion of history, showing how the US in the 1920s and 1930s emerged as a rational, mechanical society with a business civilization, where mass production, consumerism and advertising contributed to the construction of the social and the subject. The book explains how progressives, labor unions, workers, the NAACP and the Garvey movement, socialists, communists, bohemians, Asian and Native American resistance movements, the Anti-Imperialist League, and the various sectors of the women’s movements—which co-existed and developed on parallel planes and which, at times, commingle in their becomings—challenged, contested, and, at times, transformed this economically, socially, and racially unequal, modern America.


“Hogue provides an accessible, well-argued and well-researched analysis of modernist US fiction as a resonating chamber for the growing inequalities that shaped modern America. Focusing on both canonical and less canonical texts from The Great Gatsby to Younghill Kang’s East Goes West, the book’s extensive close readings flesh out social and political counternarratives that decades of critical neglect have flattened out and incorporated into mainstream, inert readings of US history.” — Christian Moraru, Class of 1949 Distinguished Professor in the Humanities and Professor of American Literature and Critical Theory, University of North Carolina, Greensboro, USA

“A Theoretical Approach to Modern American History and Literature offers readers a unique rearticulation of modern American history and literature, studying novels written by a diverse group of writers. This monumental book celebrates America as a space of cross-alliances that embraces alternative modes of social ordering in the United States.” — E. Lâle Demirtürk, Professor of African American Literature, Bilkent University, Turkey

“W. Lawrence Hogue’s A Theoretical Approach to Modern American History and Literature energizes the prevalent discourses on American modernism by examining the competing and diverse cacophony of literary voices emerging with the plurality of political, social and economic movements and organizations in the 1920s and 1930s. The result is an expanded understanding of the historical circumstances underpinning modern literature as well as a more comprehensive vision of that literature. Connecting race, ethnicity, class and gender in a theoretically astute critical assessment, this study brilliantly recalibrates the impact of state apparatuses and global politics on the literary production and artistic methodologies of culturally diverse authors not frequently placed together but whose combined presence contributed to the making of modernism.” — Thadious M. Davis, Geraldine R. Segal Professor of American Social Thought and Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Author Information

W. Lawrence Hogue is the John and Rebecca Moores Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Houston and the author of many books, including The African American Male, Writing, and Difference (2003), Postmodern American Literature and Its Other (2009), and Postmodernism, Traditional Cultural Forms, and African American Narratives (2013).


Anthem symploke Studies in Theory

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgments; Chapter One Capitalism, Imperialism, Race and Ethnicity, the Repressive State and the Ideological State Apparatuses, and the Formation of Modern America; Chapter Two Counterformations to Capitalism, Imperialism, Modern America and Its Repressive State and Ideological State Apparatuses, and the Formation of Modern American Literature, Art, and Culture; Chapter Three Sinclair Lewis’s Babbitt : An Ethnographic Look at the Middle- Class, Individuated Subject in America in the 1920s; Chapter Four Nick Carraway’s Complicated Retreat from Modernity and the Construction of the Modern Gatsby in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby; Chapter Five The African American Subaltern, Rearticulated African American Folklore, Modernity, and Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God; Chapter Six Trickster Narrator, Multinarrative Perspectives, and D’Arcy McNickle’s The Surrounded; Chapter Seven Intersectionality, Inoperative Community, Trauma, Social Justice, and Agnes Smedley’s Daughter of Earth; Chapter Eight Theosophy, Plural Subjectivity, and Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood; Chapter Nine Exile, Cosmopolitanism, Modernity, and Younghill Kang’s East Goes West; Chapter Ten Conclusion; Bibliography; Index.


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