Citizenship, Democracy, and Cold War Literature
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
In Reading America, Kristin L. Matthews puts into conversation a range of political, educational, popular, and touchstone literary texts to demonstrate how Americans from across the political spectrum—including "great works" proponents, New Critics, civil rights leaders, postmodern theorists, neoconservatives, and multiculturalists—celebrated particular texts and advocated particular interpretive methods as they worked to make their vision of "America" a reality. She situates the fiction of J. D. Salinger, Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, and Maxine Hong Kingston within these debates, illustrating how Cold War literature was not just an object of but also a vested participant in postwar efforts to define good reading and citizenship.
"Reading America offers an illuminating account of a still incompletely known and important political history, and it provides valuable critical insight into several monuments of literary expression."—Sean McCann, author of A Pinnacle of Feeling: American Literature and Presidential Government
"Matthews has a truly astonishing command of the discourse surrounding reading in Cold War America. She makes a smart and ambitious argument."—Greg Barnhisel, author of Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, and American Cultural Diplomacy
"Matthews breathes life into Holden Caulfield by revealing his culturally conservative modes of interpreting ("reading") his world. In addition, Matthews produces an innovative, well-structured analysis of the various ways in which efforts to expand and shape US consumption of literature during the Cold War found direct and indirect expression in novels by Salinger and by Ralph Ellison, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, and Maxine Hong Kingston. . . . With its meticulous research and substantive framework, this volume provides insightful new readings of relatively canonical texts. Highly recommended."—Choice
"As Kristin J. Matthews shows in her valuable study, Reading America: Citizenship, Democracy, and Cold War Literature, by the start of the Cold War books had been treated as loaded weapons for some time . . . Reading America powerfully demonstrates [that] classic works of literature are not so easily contained by nationalist discourses."—College Literature