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Realism for the MassesAesthetics, Popular Front Pluralism, and U.S. Culture, 1935-1947$
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Chris Vials

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9781604731231

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781604731231.001.0001

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Realism with a Little Sex in It

Realism with a Little Sex in It

Erskine Caldwell’s Challenge to Gone with the Wind

(p.80) Chapter Three Realism with a Little Sex in It
Realism for the Masses

Vials Chris

University Press of Mississippi

This chapter explores notions of realism common among left-wing critics in the 1930s and 1940s, with particular attention to their amenability to mass-mediated realism. Erskine Caldwell’s success came as a result of his blend of realist, southern, and mass-culture aesthetic elements—namely, realism, the southern grotesque, the pleasures of humor, and sexual appeal. This brand of mass-mediated realism, formulaically deployed in most of his novels in the 1930s and 1940s, might shed light on the reasons for his popularity as well. Many left and liberal critics felt a discomfort toward Caldwell, and this is reflected in more recent scholarship on the 1930s and 1940s in which he receives scant attention at best. This does not mean that his politics was so avant-garde as to be beyond the register of contemporary scholars; as this chapter aims to show, his politics was deeply flawed.

Keywords:   left-wing critics, mass-mediated realism, Erskine Caldwell, the southern grotesque, humor, sexual appeal

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