To "Meet Life Face to Face": Communication and American Social Reform from Haymarket to the Harlem Renaissance
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Modaff, Abigail R
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CitationModaff, Abigail R. 2021. To "Meet Life Face to Face": Communication and American Social Reform from Haymarket to the Harlem Renaissance. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractFrom the 1880s through the 1920s, communication was at the center of American politics. This period of rapid transformation is known as the “Progressive Era,” but there is little scholarly consensus as to what—if anything—united those who sought to reform their world. This dissertation shows that the era was shaped by the broadly shared perception that division, misunderstanding, and a failure to communicate threatened American society. This perception preoccupied not just the middle-class and white reformers generally known as “Progressives,” but also a far more diverse and radical swath of the population. This shared commitment to facilitating communication became, to its adherents’ eyes, a political necessity more urgent than any specific reform. It defined the politics of turn-of-the-century America.
That shared goal, however, sowed disagreement regarding how communication was to take place. Communication had no natural constituency, and its advocates were often on opposing sides of crucial practical questions. If communication is essential, the question of how to communicate becomes unavoidable. At the turn of the twentieth century, aesthetics—the concern with how something is said, as well as with its content—thus took on a starkly political character. This project is the first to uncover the influence of European Romantic literature and aesthetic theory on the politics of this period. From the canon of Romantic texts they encountered as students, people like Jane Addams, Alain Locke, William James, and William Mackintire Salter drew important lessons regarding language, individual, and community.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368483
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