Cold War Modernists: Art, Literature, and American Cultural by Greg Barnhisel

By Greg Barnhisel

Eu intellectuals of the Nineteen Fifties disregarded American tradition as not anything greater than cowboy video clips and the A-bomb. In reaction, American cultural diplomats attempted to teach that the USA had whatever to provide past army may and advertisement exploitation. via literary magazines, touring artwork indicates, traveling musical exhibits, radio courses, booklet translations, and meetings, they deployed the progressive aesthetics of modernism to prove--particularly to the leftists whose chilly struggle loyalties they was hoping to secure--that American artwork and literature have been aesthetically wealthy and culturally significant.
Yet through repurposing modernism, American diplomats and cultural specialists became the avant-garde into the institution. They remade the as soon as progressive flow right into a content-free selection of inventive recommendations and types compatible for middlebrow intake. chilly warfare Modernists records how the CIA, the nation division, and personal cultural diplomats reworked modernist paintings and literature into pro-Western propaganda in the course of the first decade of the chilly conflict. Drawing on interviews, formerly unknown archival fabrics, and the tales of such figures and associations as William Faulkner, Stephen Spender, Irving Kristol, James Laughlin, and Voice of the US, Barnhisel unearths how the U.S. executive reconfigured modernism as a trans-Atlantic stream, a joint pastime among American and ecu artists, with profound implications for the paintings that and for the nature of yank identification.

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S. practitioners and politicians, in the interests of “getting it done” and with a profound faith in the flexibility of their version of “true” propaganda, were drilling ever closer to unidirectional information, on the grounds that the Soviets did it.  . ”45 As we will see, official cultural diplomacy was deemphasized, disorganized, and often desultory during the second Truman administration; people-topeople contacts and the dissemination of culture took a back seat to a unidirectional campaign conducted through VOA, the semiprivate Radio Free Europe (RFE), and the spokespeople of the Department of State.

Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, and Stephen Vincent Benét’s poem John Brown’s Body epitomize Midcult in that they use modernism’s formal innovations—Hemingway’s flat journalistic narrative voice and “iceberg” constructions, MacLeish’s and Wilder’s foregrounding of the theatrical situation and mixture of the symbolist and realist, and Benét’s free verse—but blunt those innovations’ critical edges and ultimately celebrate rather than attack middle-class values. 39 But to return to the argument that Cold War modernism defanged the radicalism of early modernism, we must ask: If modernism sprung from a demand for aesthetic autonomy—if modernist artists insisted that their sphere of activity was entirely separate from social concerns, and they willfully and disdainfully separated themselves from the world—how can it ever have been considered radical or threatening in the first place?

Truman, MacLeish was assigned to represent the State Department at the meetings for the creation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 1945–1946. He retired from government service in 1946 and in 1949 returned to Harvard, where he had taken his law degree, to become the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. Although MacLeish does not play a direct role in the story of Cold War modernism, he prefigures many of the conflicts that would shape the program.

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