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Crowd Violence in American Modernist Fiction: Lynchings, Riots and the Individual Under Assault

Crowd Violence in American Modernist Fiction: Lynchings, Riots and the Individual Under Assault (Paperback)

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Synopsis

This study explores numerous depictions of crowd violence, literal and figurative, found in American Modernist fiction, and shows the ways crowd violence is used as a literary trope to examine issues of racial, gender, national, and class identity during this period. The Modernist fiction writers consistently employ scenes and images of crowd violence to show the ways such violence is used to define and enforce individual identity in American culture. James Weldon Johnson, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Steinbeck, for example, depict numerous individuals as victims of crowd violence and other crowd pressures, and typically, individuals in their works are challenged by crowds because these individuals have transgressed against normative social standards. Especially important is the way that racially motivated lynching, and the representation of such lynchings in African American literature and culture, becomes a noteworthy focus of canonical Modernist fiction composed by white authors.

Benjamin S. West is an assistant professor of English at the State University of New York at Delhi. He has previously published in The Midwest Quarterly: A Journal of Contemporary Thought, Teaching Cather, and In-Between: Essays and Studies in Literary Criticism. He lives in Meridale, New York.

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