BELEAGUERED POETS AND LEFTIST CRITICS: Stevens, Cummings, Frost, and Williams in the 1930s

By Walker, Marilyn | American Studies, January 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

BELEAGUERED POETS AND LEFTIST CRITICS: Stevens, Cummings, Frost, and Williams in the 1930s


Walker, Marilyn, American Studies


BELEAGUERED POETS AND LEFTIST CRITICS: Stevens, Cummings, Frost, and Williams in the 1930s. By MiltonA. Cohen. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press. 2010.

In MiltonA. Cohen's Beleaguered Poets and Leftist Critics: Stevens, C winnings, Frost, and Williams in the 1930s, he convincingly argues that literary critics marshaled political and intellectual activism to persuade middle-class poets to write on behalf of the American worker. Before the Great Depression, Wallace Stevens (1879-1955), E. ?. Cummings ( 1894-1962), Robert Frost ( 1874-1963), and William Carlos Williams (1883-1963) were praised by literary audiences. They had autonomy to write about a myriad of topics ranging from nature to observations about daily life. However, with the advent of a national economic crisis, the previously mentioned poets were bestowed with new responsibilities such as contemplating the politics of the Great Depression and representing socially and economically disenfranchised people. Ac- cording to Cohen's scholarship, critics such as Mke Gold, Malcolm Cowley, and Eda Lou Walton, encouraged Stevens, Cummings, Frost, and Williams to write about the working class and the challenges they encountered in modern society.

Interestingly, predating Cohen's cadre of poets, working-class life infused poetry, fiction, and drama. For example, in the Victorian period (1832-1901), writers such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1901), Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865), and Charles Dickens (1812-1870) composed sympathetic portrayals of laborers during the Industrial Revolution (1750-1850). Likewise, during the Harlem Renaissance (1919-1940), writers such as Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960), Claude McKay (1889-1948), and Langston Hughes (1902-1967) also expressed working-class concerns through setting, dialect, and attire. Furthermore, the scholarship of William J. …

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