Crowd Violence in American Modernist Fiction

Lynchings, Riots and the Individual Under Assault


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About the Book

This study explores numerous depictions of crowd violence, literal and figurative, found in American Modernist fiction, and shows the ways crowd violence is used as a literary trope to examine issues of racial, gender, national, and class identity during this period. Modernist writers consistently employ scenes and images of crowd violence to show the ways such violence is used to define and enforce individual identity in American culture. James Weldon Johnson, William Faulkner, Richard Wright, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and John Steinbeck, for example, depict numerous individuals as victims of crowd violence and other crowd pressures, typically because they have transgressed against normative social standards. Especially important is the way that racially motivated lynching, and the representation of such lynchings in African American literature and culture, becomes a noteworthy focus of canonical Modernist fiction composed by white authors.

About the Author(s)

Benjamin S. West is an assistant professor of English at the State University of New York at Delhi. He lives in Franklin, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Benjamin S. West

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 200
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7108-9
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0276-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Prologue: Captivity, Mob Violence and Early American Identity in Mary Rowlandson’s Narrative 1
Introduction: Crowd Violence and Punishing Identities in American Modernist Fiction 23
Chapter I Lynch Mobs and Racial Identity in Modernist Fiction 41
Chapter II Joe Christmas, Bigger Thomas and Legalized Lynching 58
Chapter III Female Identity, Southern Womanhood and Crowd Narration in Faulkner’s Fiction 80
Chapter IV The Crowd at War and at Home in Hemingway’s and Fitzgerald’s Fiction 103
Chapter V The Great Depression and Migrating Crowds in Steinbeck’s and Faulkner’s Fiction 128
The Road to a Conclusion 157
Chapter Notes 175
Works Cited 179
Index 187