American Literature and the First World War

Dayton, Tim
Date Written:  2016-05-01
Publisher:  Against the Current
Year Published:  2016
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX21389

Given that the United States entered the First World War much later than any other major belligerent, declaring war on Germany in April, 1917 - over two and a half years after the war began - one might expect that the war had less impact here than on other countries. American literature, however, argues otherwise.



While opposition to the war did find literary expression, especially during the period of American neutrality, the overwhelming majority of wartime writing supported direct American involvement.

Even before the United States declared war, the publishing industry largely favored pro-war writing. But once war was declared, the suppression of the mails - devastating in a vast country in which the left was heavily dependent upon the postal service to distribute its papers and journals - had the effect of eliminating most of the venues in which antiwar poetry could be published.

But also, many socialists - especially socialist intellectuals - were recruited to the war effort by the relatively progressive character of some of the Wilson administration's policies, which to some extent foreshadowed the New Deal of the 1930s.
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