Left in the West
Literature, Culture, and Progressive Politics in the American West
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Author: Gioia Woods

Format: Paper
Pages: 408
ISBN: 9781943859924
Published Date: 2018


In this edited collection, Gioia Woods and her contributors bring together histories, biographies, close readings, and theories about the literary and cultural Left in the American West—as it is distinct from the more often-theorized literary left in major eastern metropolitan centers. Left in the West expands our understanding of what constitutes the literary left in the U.S. by including writers, artists, and movements not typically considered within the traditional context of the literary left. In doing so, it provides a new understanding of the region’s place among global and political ideologies.

From the early 19th century to the present, a remarkably complex and varied body of literary and cultural production has emerged out of progressive social movements. While the literary left in the West shared many interests with other regional expressions—labor, class, anti-fascism, and anti-imperialism, the influence of Manifest Destiny—the distinct history of settler colonialism in western territories caused western leftists to develop concerns unique to the region. 

Chapters in the volume provide an impressive range of analysis, covering artists and movements from suffragist writers to bohemian Californian photographers, from civil rights activists to popular folk musicians, from Latinx memoirists to Native American experimental writers, to name just a few.

The unique consideration of the West as a socio-political region establishes a framework for political critique that moves beyond class consequences, anti-fascism, and civil liberties, and into distinct Western concerns such as Native American sovereignty, environmental exploitation, and the legacies of settler colonialism. What emerges is a deeper understanding of the region and its unique people, places, and concerns.

Author Bio

Gioia Woodsis associate professor of humanities at Northern Arizona University. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Reviews

Left in the West offers a timely overview of the cultural production that emerged out of progressive social movements from the late 19th to the early 21st century. Weaving together social and literary history with biographies and theory about the cultural Left in the American West, the contributors create a complicated and diverse portrait of politically-engaged critical work.” —Susan Kollin, Montana State University, editor of A History of Western American Literature