Cold War Complications – Voices from the Center
Workshop for the European Association for American Studies conference
“America: Justice, Conflict, War”
The Hague, Netherlands
April 3- 6, 2014
Now a generation removed from the Soviet Union’s end, scholars and laypeople alike often portray the United States of the early Cold War as a time of anti-Communist extremism, when writers were expected to trumpet the American Way or risked accusation of Communist sympathies. Yet this portrayal masks a surprisingly broad spectrum of political and cultural views, as evidenced by the work of a range of voices, which spoke against extremism on the left or the right.
Many writers who, through experiences in 1930s Europe, had developed sympathies with Communist ideals out of revulsion to the social injustices of Nazism or American Fordism were blackballed, gray-listed, or had difficulty publishing after the war as anti-Soviet sentiment in the U.S. peaked. Though well-known prior to the war, many became virtual unknowns, and remain so today.
Yet others’ continued popularity with readers throughout the postwar period may reflect a more complicated political landscape than that described by commonly held beliefs in American isolationism before the war and strictly conformist postwar anti-Communism. In the struggle for “justice” as a Manichean conflict between two opposing sides in propaganda issued during the pre-war decade and the early Cold War, these were authors whose nuanced stances toward political and social justice often brought them into conflict with polarized and polarizing ideologies. In a world tilting toward extremism, some fought often losing battles in the U.S. to retain political balance - and an audience. Others, more established, remain canonized almost entirely through pre-war or nonpolitical writings, while important sections of their oeuvres are now overlooked or forgotten.
This workshop addresses complexity in politics as it appears and develops in literary figures’ lives and work from around 1930 through the 1950s. It invites papers on little-known or lesser-known writers who found their moderate, anti-extremist views undermining them. It also invites papers on authors who successfully managed political moderation before and during the Cold War, those who found a sympathetic American readership allowing them to continue publishing without being pinned down to taking sides and without shying away from politics and their ideas of justice in their work.
Please send proposals for papers (a 250-word abstract and brief bio) by October 1, 2013 to co-chairs
Louis Mazzari, Bođaziçi University firstname.lastname@example.org
Joshua Parker, University of Salzburg Joshua.email@example.com
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