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Proletarian Literature


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Name applied to the school of writing that contends that experience is primarily conditioned by the social, economic, and political environment and that the author is able to understand this environment by Marxist theory, which explains the dialectical relation of class cultures to the prevailing economic and social structure. During the Depression, when they flourished, proletarian writers contended that it was life itself, not the Communist party, that forced them to be interested in such phenomena as strikes, agricultural and industrial conditions, and persecution and oppression of racial minorities and the working class. During the 1920s and '30s Dos Passos, Farrell, and Steinbeck were among the leading writers who sympathized with the broader concepts of proletarian literature, but they refused to be confined by what they viewed as dogmatic restrictions. During the Depression other authors who moved to the far left in their social views and were avowedly or apparently in major accord with the tenets of proletarian literature included the novelists Robert Cantwell, Jack Conroy, Waldo Frank, Albert Halper, Josephine Herbst, and Grace Lumpkin, the dramatists John Howard Lawson, Clifford Odets, and Irwin Shaw, and the critics V. F. Calverton, Joseph Freeman, Michael Gold, and Granville Hicks. The Masses and its successor, the New Masses, were the leading proletarian journals.

Subjects: Literature.


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