American Literary History and the Turn Toward Modernity

American Literary History and the Turn Toward Modernity



The years between 1880 and 1930 are usually seen as a time in which American writers departed from values and traditions of the Victorian era in wholly new works of modernist literature, with the turn of the century typically used as a dividing line between the old and the new. Challenging this periodization, contributors argue that this entire time span should instead be studied as a coherent and complex literary field.

The essays in this volume show that these were years of experimentation, negotiation of boundaries, and hybridity—resulting in a true literature of transition. Contributors offer new readings of authors including Jack London, Edith Wharton, and Theodore Dreiser in light of their ties to both the nineteenth-century past and the emerging modernity of the twentieth century. Emphasizing the diversity of the literature of this time, contributors also examine poetry written by and for Native American students in a Westernized boarding school, the changing attitudes of authors toward marriage, turn-of-the-century feminism, dime novels, anthologies edited by late-nineteenth-century female literary historians, and fiction of the Harlem Renaissance.

Calling for readers to look both forward and backward at the cultural contexts of these works and to be mindful of the elastic categories of this era, these essays demonstrate the plurality and the tensions characteristic of American literature during the century’s long turn.



Publication Date



University Press of Florida


Gainesville, Florida


literary criticism, nineteenth century, twentieth century, modernism, Jack London, Edith Wharton


English Language and Literature | History | Modern Literature | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | Women's Studies

American Literary History and the Turn Toward Modernity