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Introduction - Literature and Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 December 2022

Christos Hadjiyiannis
Affiliation:
University of Cyprus
Rachel Potter
Affiliation:
University of East Anglia
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Summary

The history of literature has long been viewed in its relationship to politics. For much of the twentieth century, we were schooled to find the politics of literature not in its acknowledged commitments but as lying deep within its unconsciously ideological structures and forms. The Introduction to the volume, as well as offering succinct summaries of the eighteen essays that make it up, calls for attending to literature’s political surfaces: to recognise that twentieth-century authors wrote in direct response to political movements, ideas, and events, that many were activists for or against them, and that literature and politics over the twentieth century coincided, overlapped, and clashed. Taking its cue from Toni Morrison’s unapologetic mixing of commitment and literature in her 1973 Foreword to Sula, the Introduction argues that several works by twentieth-century individuals were political in specific, open, and direct ways. This is of course not to say that these writers did not question literature’s relationship to politics, nor that they didn’t quiz literature’s ability to effect politics.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2022

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