Introducing American Literature and Culture in the Postwar Years [chapter]

Josephine G. Hendin
2008 A Concise Companion to Postwar American Literature and Culture  
The brilliance and diversity of American writing since World War II are at once testimony to the ideals of inclusiveness that inform our civil culture and an intense exposure of our limitations. At once celebratory and feisty, argumentative and lyrical, our writers identify and express the living contradictions of our culture. Through all the chapters that follow there emerges a collective portrait of a period and place marked by every conceivable fault and virtue, split by differences of
more » ... and position, by habits of outrage or praise, by ethnicity and race, by agendas of the left and right, by narrative realism and innovation, but nevertheless united, if by nothing else, by a sheer intensity of creative drive. The purpose of this companion is to provide a guide through that creative ferment, describe its shaping ideas and the writers who represent the variety of its energies and achievements. Emily Dickinson's praise of that certain "Slant of light" that sharply exposes "internal difference, / Where the Meanings, are" underscores the power of "difference" to inspire. Out of the argument between the artist and business culture, between those on the margin and those in the mainstream, postwar United States culture has forged dynamic new fusions and combinations. The United States that emerges through our fiction, drama, music, and film is a rhetorical figure for modernity in all its disruption and progress. A nation whose cohesiveness relies on consent to and interpretation of the ideals of its founding documents has nourished an art animated by the power of those ideals to
doi:10.1002/9780470756430.ch1 fatcat:rhozcy7yqbdytcmdypzarj67ja