Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Forgotten Men and Fallen Women: The Cultural Politics of New Deal Narratives

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Forgotten Men and Fallen Women: The Cultural Politics of New Deal Narratives

Article excerpt

Forgotten Men and Fallen Women: The Cultural Politics of New Deal Narratives. By Holly Allen. (Ithaca, N.Y., and London: Cornell University Press, 2015. Pp. [x], 257. $45.00, ISBN 978-0-8014-5357-1.)

Over the last half-century, historians of the New Deal have come to a sophisticated understanding of the cultural politics of the 1930s. Whereas many of those who survived the Great Depression recalled the period as one defined by radical experimentation of all kinds, a new generation, those who had been children in Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal America, looked back on the era with a stronger sense of continuity. Warren Susman and William E. Leuchtenburg were among the first to capture the introverted nature of Depression-era popular culture as people sought not to establish a new social order but to reestablish, as much as possible, the one that had crashed with the stock market in the fall of 1929. Following Leuchtenburg's and Susman's lead, scholars as different as Lawrence W. Levine, Lizabeth Cohen, and Alan Brinkley have, with great analytical acuity and historical imagination, helped us see how traditional and conservative themes in political culture and cultural politics blunted the reach of innovation and reform across American culture--whether in the iconography of daily life, in the administration of federal programs, or in the formulation of economic policies.

Holly Allen brings much-needed illumination into unfamiliar corners of this otherwise well-traveled territory. She does so in ways significant enough that they should alter how we view the entire vista. Allen's mission here is to recover and distill for us the '"civic stories'" through which Americans were encouraged by political leaders, popular journalists, Hollywood filmmakers, and New Deal bureaucrats, all of whom were the human faces of their era's social democratic reform, to understand and live through times of crisis (p. …

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