4. Making It New

The Emergence of Modern American Literature 1900–1945

  1. Richard Gray

Published Online: 21 MAR 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781444397604.ch4

A Brief History of American Literature

A Brief History of American Literature

How to Cite

Gray, R. (2011) Making It New, in A Brief History of American Literature, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444397604.ch4

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 MAR 2012
  2. Published Print: 7 JAN 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405192316

Online ISBN: 9781444397604



  • making it new, the emergence of Modern American Literature 1900–1945;
  • United States, and second decade of twentieth century - most powerful industrialized nation in the world, oustripping Britain and Germany in industrial production;
  • people, facing hardship after the Wall Street Crash of 1929;
  • notion of “double-consciousness” of African American - immediate echo in the work of James Weldon Johnson;
  • between Victorianism and Modernism - problems of race, those hardest hit by economic crisis following the Wall Street Crash, being African Americans;
  • The Souls of Black Folk (1903) - W. E. B. Du Bois, comprehensive criticism of Washington's modest stance on black disenfranchisement;
  • making it new in poetry, writers of the period - associated with Imagism and objectivism - belief in the need, to “make it new” - than Ezra Pound (1885–1972);
  • modernism, coming late to American drama - realism, experimentalism, with exception of The Contrast by Royall Tyler, Americanism;
  • “Most modern plays,” Eugene O'Neill (1888–1953) declaring - “are concerned with the relation between man and man;
  • prophetic voices, abiding romanticism of Wolfe's work - concern with loss and prophecy, search for a self-realization coextensive with discovery of national identity


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • Changing National Identities

  • Between Victorianism and Modernism

  • The Inventions of Modernism

  • Traditionalism, Politics, and Prophecy

  • Community and Identity

  • Mass Culture and the Writer