The heyday for proletarian literature was the 1930s, when the Great Depression pitched capitalism into a severe and protracted crisis and spawned a burgeoning Marxist literary culture bitterly hostile to capitalist values and institutions and committed to revolt. In concert with the virulent backlash against communism in the 1940s and 1950s, the American literary community turned on Depression-era proletarian literature with a vengeance, denouncing it as nothing more than aesthetically worthless propaganda for a disgraced political doctrine. That reductive judgment largely prevailed until the 1960s, when some literary scholars and historians argued for a more nuanced and fair-minded reassessment. After the end of the Cold War, another and much more sweeping and rigorously researched wave of revisionist scholarship has emerged that continues to dispel the old stereotypes about the crudities of proletarian literature. What emerges from the new scholarship is a complex and variegated literature quite unlike the caricature advanced by its detractors.Less
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