Writing the Radical Center
William Carlos Williams, John Dewey, and American Cultural Politics
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Explores the cultural work of two important early-twentieth-century writers: the poet William Carlos Williams and the educator/philosopher John Dewey, both key figures in American democracy.
Placing the philosopher John Dewey and the poet William Carlos Williams together—two important figures of twentieth-century American culture—this book examines the ambitions and failings of progressive liberal culture during the first half of the twentieth century. This book shows that, while their work ostensibly shares little in common, Williams and Dewey share the ambition to realize the radical potential of a democratic cultural politics. Including close readings of texts like Williams's Spring and All, In the American Grain, and Paterson, and Dewey's Individualism Old and New and Art as Experience, Beck offers an important contribution to current debates over the relationship between politics and cultural production.
John Beck is Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
"…Beck provides conclusive evidence that Williams and Dewey indeed share a large number of concerns and subscribe to similar positions, and thus contributes to the ongoing dialogue between philosophy and literary studies over the legacy of Pragmatism. " — American Studies: A Quarterly
"A carefully qualified and nuanced examination of its subject, this book is sensitive both to the limitations and to the ambitions and motives of the period and players it examines. The depth of the study and the originality of pairing Williams and Dewey not to present an influence-study but to examine what informs and what limits these two as major spokesmen for Progressivism is refreshing. " — Lisa M. Steinman, author of Made in America: Science, Technology, and American Modernist Poets
"While there are numerous recent books that seek to reevaluate American pragmatism in terms of its cultural context, this is the first to explore at length the considerable analogies between Williams and Dewey. " — Carl Rapp, author of Fleeing the Universal: The Critique of Post-Rational Criticism
"Dewey and Williams are both shown by Beck to address themselves to the very issues so topical today, about how much a liberal education can prepare young people to think for themselves, and to challenge prevailing values and ideologies. Without the ability of the public to think for itself, our values will be perverted and materialistic, at the mercy of those committed to wealth and power. " — K. M. Wheeler, University of Cambridge