Chicago literature is writing, primarily by writers born or living in Chicago, that reflects the culture of the city.
James Atlas, in his biography of Chicago writer Saul Bellow, suggests that "the city's reputation for nurturing literary and intellectual talent can be traced to the same geographical centrality that made it a great industrial power." When Chicago was incorporated in 1837, it was a frontier outpost with about 4,000 people. The population rose rapidly to approximately 100,000 in 1860. By 1890, the city had over 1 million people. Chicago's dynamic growth, as well as the manufacturing, economics, and politics that fueled this growth, can be seen in the works of writers like Carl Sandburg, Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Hamlin Garland, Frank Norris, Upton Sinclair, Willa Cather, and Edna Ferber.
Due to these rapid changes, Chicago writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries faced the challenge of how to depict this potentially disorienting new urban reality. Narrative fiction of that time, much of it in the style of "high-flown romance" and "genteel realism", needed a new approach to describe Chicago's social, political, and economic conditions. Chicagoans worked hard to create a literary tradition that would stand the test of time, and create a "city of feeling" out of concrete, steel, vast lake, and open prairie. Among the new techniques and styles embraced by Chicago writers were "naturalism," "imagism," and "free verse." Themes often centered on an exciting but dirty urbanism, as well as the quaint but dark and sometimes stultifying small town.
Chicago's early twentieth-century writers and publishers were seen as producing innovative work that broke with the literary traditions of Europe and the Eastern United States. In 1920, the critic H.L. Mencken wrote in a London magazine, the Nation, that Chicago was the "Literary Capital of the United States." Expressing the attitude that Chicago writers were creating a distinctive, new, and far from genteel literary idiom, he wrote, "Find a writer who is indubitably an American in every pulse-beat, snort, and adenoid, an American who has something new and peculiarly American to say and who says it in an unmistakable American way, and nine times out of ten you will find that he has some sort of connection with the gargantuan and inordinate abattoir by Lake Michigan."
While Chicago produced much realist and naturalist fiction, its literary institutions also played a crucial role in promoting international modernism. The avant-garde Little Review (founded 1914 by Margaret Anderson) began in Chicago, though it later moved elsewhere. The Little Review provided an important platform for experimental literature, famously it was the first to publish James Joyce's novel Ulysses, in serial form until the magazine was forced to discontinue the novel due to obscenity charges. Similarly, the publication that became Poetry magazine (founded 1912 by Harriet Monroe) was instrumental in launching the Imagist and Objectivist poetic movements. T. S. Eliot's first professionally published poem, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," appeared in Poetry. Contributors have included Ezra Pound, William Butler Yeats, William Carlos Williams, Langston Hughes and Carl Sandburg, among others. The magazine also discovered such poets as Gwendolyn Brooks, James Merrill, and John Ashbery. Poetry and the Little Review were "daring" in their editorial championship of the modernist movement. Later editors also made substantial contributions in poetry, as did Chicago's university and performance venues.
Chicago's universities also have a strong reputation for developing literary talent. In the second half of the 20th century, the University of Chicago served as a hub for many emerging postmodern writers such as Saul Bellow, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Roth, and Robert Coover. Bellow received his Bachelor's from nearby Northwestern University, which has also produced acclaimed authors such as George R.R. Martin, Tina Rosenberg and Kate Walbert.
According to Bill Savage in The Encyclopedia of Chicago, today's Chicago writers are still interested in the same social themes and urban landscapes that compelled earlier Chicago writers: "the fundamental dilemmas presented by city life in general and by the specifics of Chicago's urban spaces, history, and relentless change."
Literature scholar Robert Bone argues for the existence of a fourth period:
Much notable Chicago writing focuses on the city itself, with social criticism keeping exultation in check. Here is a selection of Chicago's most famous works about itself:
Alternative versions of Chicago sometimes appear in fantasy and science fiction novels.
Other noted writers, who were from Chicago or who spent a significant amount of their careers in Chicago include, David Mamet, Ernest Hemingway, Ben Hecht, John Dos Passos, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Edgar Lee Masters, Sherwood Anderson, Eugene Field, and Hamlin Garland.
Alexander "Alex" Bittelman (1890–1982) was a Russian-born Jewish-American communist political activist, Marxist theorist, influential theoretician of the Communist Party USA and writer. A founding member, Bittelman is best remembered as the chief factional lieutenant of William Z. Foster and as a longtime editor of The Communist, its monthly magazine.American literature
American literature is literature written or produced in the United States of America and its preceding colonies (for specific discussions of poetry and theater, see Poetry of the United States and Theater in the United States). Before the founding of the United States, the British colonies on the eastern coast of the present-day United States were heavily influenced by English literature. The American literary tradition thus began as part of the broader tradition of English literature.
The revolutionary period is notable for the political writings of Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Paine. Thomas Jefferson's United States Declaration of Independence solidified his status as a key American writer. It was in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that the nation's first novels were published. An early example is William Hill Brown's The Power of Sympathy published in 1791. Brown's novel depicts a tragic love story between siblings who fall in love without knowing they are related.
With an increasing desire to produce uniquely American literature and culture, a number of key new literary figures emerged, perhaps most prominently Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe. In 1836, Ralph Waldo Emerson started an influential movement known as Transcendentalism. Inspired by that movement, Henry David Thoreau wrote Walden, which celebrates individualism and nature and urges resistance to the dictates of organized society. The political conflict surrounding abolitionism inspired the writings of William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe in her famous novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. These efforts were supported by the continuation of the slave narratives such as Frederick Douglass's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave.
In the mid-nineteenth century, Nathaniel Hawthorne published his magnum opus The Scarlet Letter, a novel about adultery. Hawthorne influenced Herman Melville, who is notable for the books Moby-Dick and Billy Budd. America's greatest poets of the nineteenth century were Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Mark Twain (the pen name used by Samuel Langhorne Clemens) was the first major American writer to be born away from the East Coast. Henry James put American literature on the international map with novels like The Portrait of a Lady. At the turn of the twentieth century a strong naturalist movement emerged that comprised writers such as Edith Wharton, Stephen Crane, Theodore Dreiser, and Jack London.
American writers expressed disillusionment following World War I. The short stories and novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the mood of the 1920s, and John Dos Passos wrote too about the war. Ernest Hemingway became famous with The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms; in 1954, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature. William Faulkner became one of the greatest American writers with novels like The Sound and the Fury. American poetry reached a peak after World War I with such writers as Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot, Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, and E. E. Cummings. American drama attained international status at the time with the works of Eugene O'Neill, who won four Pulitzer Prizes and the Nobel Prize. In the mid-twentieth century, American drama was dominated by the work of playwrights Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, as well as by the maturation of the American musical.
Depression era writers included John Steinbeck, notable for his novel The Grapes of Wrath. Henry Miller assumed a distinct place in American Literature in the 1930s when his semi-autobiographical novels were banned from the US. From the end of World War II until the early 1970s many popular works in modern American literature were produced, like Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. America's involvement in World War II influenced works such as Norman Mailer's The Naked and the Dead (1948), Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961) and Kurt Vonnegut Jr.'s Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). The main literary movement since the 1970s has been postmodernism, and since the late twentieth century ethnic and minority literature has sharply increased.Chicago
Chicago ( (listen), locally also ), officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, and the fourth largest in North America (after Mexico City, New York City and Los Angeles) and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.
Located on the shores of freshwater Lake Michigan, Chicago was incorporated as a city in 1837 near a portage between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River watershed and grew rapidly in the mid-nineteenth century. After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed several square miles and left more than 100,000 homeless, the city made a concerted effort to rebuild. The construction boom accelerated population growth throughout the following decades, and by 1900 Chicago was the fifth largest city in the world. Chicago made noted contributions to urban planning and zoning standards, including new construction styles (including the Chicago School of architecture), the development of the City Beautiful Movement, and the steel-framed skyscraper.Chicago is an international hub for finance, culture, commerce, industry, technology, telecommunications, and transportation. It is the site of the creation of the first standardized futures contracts at the Chicago Board of Trade, which today is the largest and most diverse derivatives market gobally, generating 20% of all volume in commodities and financial futures. O'Hare International Airport is the one of the busiest airports in the world, and the region also has the largest number of U.S. highways and greatest amount of railroad freight. In 2012, Chicago was listed as an alpha global city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, and it ranked seventh in the entire world in the 2017 Global Cities Index. The Chicago area has one of the highest gross domestic products (GDP) in the world, generating $680 billion in 2017. In addition, the city has one of the world's most diversified and balanced economies, not being dependent on any one industry, with no single industry employing more than 14% of the workforce.Chicago's 58 million domestic and international visitors in 2018, made it the second most visited city in the nation, behind New York City's approximate 65 million visitors. The city ranked first place in the 2018 Time Out City Life Index, a global quality of life survey of 15,000 people in 32 cities. Landmarks in the city include Millennium Park, Navy Pier, the Magnificent Mile, the Art Institute of Chicago, Museum Campus, the Willis (Sears) Tower, Grant Park (Chicago), the Museum of Science and Industry, and Lincoln Park Zoo. Chicago's culture includes the visual arts, literature, film, theater, comedy (especially improvisational comedy), food, and music, particularly jazz, blues, soul, hip-hop, gospel, and electronic dance music including house music. Of the area's many colleges and universities, the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and the University of Illinois at Chicago are classified as "highest research" doctoral universities. Chicago has professional sports teams in each of the major professional leagues, including two Major League Baseball teams.Dennis E. Batt
Dennis E. Batt (1886 - 19xx) was an American political journalist and trade union activist. Best remembered as the first editor of The Communist, the official organ of the Communist Party of America and leading member of the Proletarian Party of America, in later years Batt's political views became increasingly conservative and he ended his life as a mainstream functionary in the union movement.Earl Browder
Earl Russell Browder (May 20, 1891 – June 27, 1973) was an American political activist and leader of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA). Browder is best remembered as the General Secretary of the CPUSA during the 1930s and first half of the 1940s.
During World War I, Browder served time in federal prison as a conscientious objector to conscription and the war. Upon his release, Browder became an active member of the American Communist movement, soon working as an organizer on behalf of the Communist International and its Red International of Labor Unions in China and the Pacific region.
In 1930, following the removal of a rival political faction from leadership, Browder was made General Secretary of the CPUSA. For the next 15 years thereafter Browder was the most recognizable public figure associated with American Communism, authoring dozens of pamphlets and books, making numerous public speeches before sometimes vast audiences, and twice running for President of the United States. Browder also took part in clandestine activities on behalf of Soviet intelligence in America during his period of party leadership, placing those who sought to convey sensitive information to the party into contact with Soviet intelligence.
In the wake of public outrage over the 1939 Nazi–Soviet pact, Browder was indicted for passport fraud. He was convicted of two counts early in 1940 and sentenced to four years in prison, remaining free for a time on appeal. In the spring of 1942, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the sentence and Browder began what proved to be a 14-month stint in federal prison. Browder was subsequently released in 1943 as a gesture towards wartime unity.
Browder was a staunch adherent of close cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union during World War II and envisioned continued cooperation between these two military powers in the postwar years. Coming to see the role of American Communists to be that of an organized pressure group within a broad governing coalition, in 1944 he directed the transformation of the CPUSA into a "Communist Political Association." However, following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Cold War and internal red scare quickly sprouted up. Browder was expelled from the re-established Communist Party early in 1946, due largely to a refusal to modify these views to accord with changing political realities and their associated ideological demands.
Browder lived out the rest of his life in relative obscurity at his home in Yonkers, New York and later in Princeton, New Jersey, where he died. He wrote numerous books and pamphlets on political issues. His three sons were all gifted mathematicians and had academic careers.Farmer–Labor Party
The first modern Farmer–Labor Party in the United States emerged in Minnesota in 1918. Economic dislocation caused by American entry into World War I put agricultural prices and workers' wages into imbalance with rapidly escalating retail prices during the war years, and farmers and workers sought to make common cause in the political sphere to redress their grievances.Gwendolyn Brooks
Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks (June 7, 1917 – December 3, 2000) was an American poet, author, and teacher. Her work often dealt with the personal celebrations and struggles of ordinary people in her community. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry on May 1, 1950, for Annie Allen, making her the first African American to receive the Pulitzer.Throughout her prolific writing career, Brooks received many more honors. She was appointed Poet Laureate of Illinois in 1968, a position she held until her death, and what is now the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress for the 1985–86 term. In 1976, she became the first African-American woman inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas and at six-weeks-old was taken to Chicago, where she lived the rest of her life. Her parents, especially her mother encouraged her poetry writing. She began submitting poems to various publications, as a teenager. After graduating high school during the Great Depression, she took a two-year junior college program, worked as a typist, married, and had children. Continuing to write and submit her work, she finally found substantial outlets for her poetry. This recognition of her work also led her to lecturing and teaching aspiring writers. Being the winner of multiple awards for her writing, several schools and institutions have been named in her honor.J. Louis Engdahl
John Louis Engdahl (November 11, 1884 – November 21, 1932) was an American socialist journalist and newspaper editor. One of the leading journalists of the Socialist Party of America, Engdahl joined the Communist movement in 1921 and continued to employ his talents in that organization as the first editor of The Daily Worker. Engdahl was also a key leader of the International Red Aid (MOPR) organization based in Moscow, where he died while on official business in 1932.Jay Lovestone
Jay Lovestone (December 15, 1897 – March 7, 1990) was an American activist. He was at various times a member of the Socialist Party of America, a leader of the Communist Party USA, leader of a small oppositionist party, an anti-Communist and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) helper, and foreign policy advisor to the leadership of the AFL-CIO and various unions within it.Paul Goodman
Paul Goodman (September 9, 1911 – August 2, 1972) was an American novelist, playwright, poet, literary critic, and psychotherapist, although now best known as a social critic and anarchist philosopher. Though often thought of as a sociologist, he vehemently denied being one in a presentation in the Experimental College at San Francisco State in 1964, and in fact said he could not read sociology because it was too often lifeless. The author of dozens of books including Growing Up Absurd and The Community of Scholars, Goodman was an activist on the pacifist Left in the 1960s and a frequently cited inspiration to the student movement of that decade. A lay therapist for a number of years, he was a co-founder of Gestalt therapy in the 1940s and 1950s.The House on Mango Street
The House on Mango Street is a 1984 coming-of-age/bildungsroman novel by Mexican-American author Sandra Cisneros. It is written from the perspective of teenage Latina, Esperanza Cordero, who struggles with her life in a Chicano and Puerto Rican neighborhood of Chicago. Esperanza wishes to escape her impoverished life in her small red house on Mango Street to then return one day to rescue her loved ones as well. The novel combines old Mexican traditions with modern American customs and explores the plight of marginalized Latinos struggling to survive in a dominantly white country. It is presented in a series of vignettes and is Sandra Cisneros’ first published novel. The book has earned many awards and accolades, and is considered to be a modern classic of Chicana literature. It is a New York Times Bestseller and has been adapted into a stage play by Tanya Saracho.
Because the novel deals with controversial subject matter and has become a staple of young adult academia, it has been banned from many schools and has faced a lot of criticism. Though it has faced a lot of criticism from censors and school boards, it is considered an important and highly influential coming-of-age novel, and has appeared on many young adult reading lists.Workers Party of America
The Workers Party of America (WPA) was the name of the legal party organization used by the Communist Party USA from the last days of 1921 until the middle of 1929.
As a legal political party, the Workers Party accepted affiliation from independent socialist groups such as the African Blood Brotherhood, the Jewish Socialist Federation and the Workers' Council of the United States. In the meantime, the underground Communist Party, with overlapping membership, conducted political agitation. By 1923, the aboveground party sought to engage the Socialist Party of America (SPA) in united front actions, but it was rebuffed. Both the WPA and the SPA engaged in separate labor party efforts, prior to the presidential election of 1924. The SPA participated in the Conference for Progressive Political Action, which dissolved itself into the Progressive Party. The WPA succeeded in dominating the national Farmer–Labor Party, but that organization quickly returned to its constituent parts. At its 1925 convention, the group renamed itself the Workers (Communist) Party and in 1929 the Communist Party, USA. The party's youth affiliate was named the Young Workers League, Young Workers (Communist) League and Young Communist League in tandem with the parent organization.
As the Communist International entered the Third Period, the principle of a leftist united front was abandoned in favor of a single above-ground Communist Party. The above-ground Workers Party and underground party were thus gradually merged in a series of party conferences in the late 1920s into the Communist Party USA.