In most of his half century of writing, John Dos Passos consistently tried to capture and define the American character. The complete range of his work builds to Dos Passos' concept of "contemporary chronicle," his own name for his fiction. In this first study of all Dos Passos' writing, Linda W. Wagner examines his fiction, poetry, drama, travel essays, and history—a body of work that evokes a vivid image of America meant to be neither judgmental nor moralistic.
From Manhattan Transfer to U. S. A. to District of Columbia to The Thirteenth Chronicle and Mid-century, Wagner illuminates Dos Passos' work with fresh readings and new interpretations. She makes extensive use of unpublished manuscript material so that this is a casebook of Dos Passos' interest in craft and method as well as a thematic study. In addition, this volume chronicles the years during which Dos Passos wrote—the immediate post-World War I period through the twenties and thirties and well into the fifties. This is an important book both in literary criticism and in American social history.
Introduction: The Americanization of John Dos Passos
Part I. The Development of the Artist
1. Reaching Past Poetry
2. History as Autobiography: Dos Passos’ Early Protagonists
3. History as Travel: Dos Passos on the Road to America
Part II. The Mature Artist: Dos Passos as American Chronicler
4. Manhattan Transfer: The Beginning of the Chronicles
5. “Politics” and the New Drama
6. Dos Passos’ Search for U. S. A.
Part III. The Late Artist: Dos Passos as American Interpreter
7. District of Columbia: Mecca or Dis?
8. The Search for an American Hero
9. The End of the Search
Linda W. Wagner-Martin is Frank Borden Hanes Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"Lively and informative throughout, Professor Wagner's work is without question the most important book to date on the writings of Dos Passos."