Creating a Hoosier Self-Portrait: The Federal Writers' Project in Indiana, 1935-1942

Creating a Hoosier Self-Portrait: The Federal Writers' Project in Indiana, 1935-1942

Creating a Hoosier Self-Portrait: The Federal Writers' Project in Indiana, 1935-1942

Creating a Hoosier Self-Portrait: The Federal Writers' Project in Indiana, 1935-1942

Synopsis

From 1935 to 1942, the Indiana office of the Federal Writers' Program hired unemployed writers as "field workers" to create a portrait in words of the land, the people, and the culture of the Hoosier state. This book tells the story of the project and its valuable legacy. Beginning work under the guidance of Ross Lockridge, whose son would later burst onto the American literary scene with his novel Raintree County, the group would eventually produce Indiana: A Guide to the Hoosier State, Hoosier Tall Stories, and other publications. Though many projects were never brought to completion, the Program's work remains a useful and rarely tapped storehouse of information on the history and culture of the state.

Excerpt

As the United States entered the Second World War in 1942 and left the Great Depression behind, literary critic Alfred Kazin published a study entitled On Native Grounds. Kazin recalled how the economic collapse of the 1930s had forced Americans to question their traditions and to search for insights into the country’s character. Aiding in this national self-analysis was the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), a small part of President Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, which created jobs for the unemployed. One of the most enduring products of the fwp was the American Guide series, which reviewed the past, described the present situation, and outlined tours in each of the forty-eight states. Kazin applauded these displaced writers who “went hunting through darkest America with notebook and camera” to “search out the land, to compile records, to explain America to itself.” Almost fifty years later, historian Bernard Weisberger revisited the American Guide series and once again applauded the writers who had probed the national past and psyche. According to Weisberger, their research had uncovered invaluable treasures and their publications were an exercise in “national self-portraiture.” This analogy of introspection and selfdepiction mentioned by two scholars a half-century apart poses a . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.