• William Dow
Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)


Narrating Class in America Fiction is about class as discourse, how class is represented in American fiction in the 1850–1940 period. My theoretical claim is that literature is a means to access the way class becomes part of subjectivity: how it forms, in conjunction with race and gender, a discursive subject. Beyond any simple dichotomy between fiction and reality, the power of the poetic word is rooted as much in its capacity to document the forces that shape the world as in its abil­ity to reshape our most fundamental ideas about social and material determinations. The starting point for writing the book was the frus­tration I was experiencing in reading literary criticism—particularly from the United States—in which considerations of class and class rep­resentations were almost completely evacuated while such interpretive grids as gender and race were given the status of automatic concern and legitimacy. I began with the question, “why is class an afterthought?” Major exceptions of course exist, for example: Paula Rabinowitz’s Labor and Desire (1991); John Carlos Rowe’s At Emerson’s Tomb (1997); Gregory S. Jay’s American Literature and Culture Wars (1997); Amy Shrager Lang’s The Syntax of Class (2003); Barbara Foley’s Radical Representations (1993); George Lipsitz’s Rainbow at Midnight (1994); and Michael Trask’s Cruising Modernism (2003). Exceptionally, these works, in their multiplicity of approaches to class and culture, do not deflect, deny, or mystify class realities.


Class Division Direct Address Class Consciousness Labor Historian American Writer 
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    See E. P. Thompson, The Making of the English Working Class ( Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1978 );Google Scholar
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© William Dow 2009

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  • William Dow

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