Ian Afflerbach (Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta)

July 11, 2017, 2-4 p.m.,  P 208

In 1939, Philip Rahv and William Phillips, editors of Partisan Review, attempted to map “The Situation in American Writing” by sending a questionnaire to some of the nation’s most accomplished authors and critics: from Wallace Stevens, Gertrude Stein, and John Dos Passos, to Lionel Trilling, Allen Tate, and R. P. Blackmur. By unpacking the eclectic archive of published (and unpublished) responses to this survey, my essay shows how the Partisan Review’s 1939 questionnaire illustrates the de ning concerns of an American late modernism emerging in the United States during the interwar period. I begin by relating how the questionnaire rose to prominence alongside modernism, through developments in mass print culture. I show how Partisan Review’s questionnaire performs a mode of cultural politics that I call “democratic dissensus,” a process of ironic negation, dispute, and re ection that was central to the magazine’s cultural project from the 1930s through the 1950s. Drawing upon periodical studies, material culture studies, and the emerging eld of late modernist studies, I position the democratic dispute engineered by Partisan Review as a signal moment not only in the magazine’s history, but in periodizing narratives about American modernism.


Ian Afflerbach will begin as Assistant Professor of American Literature at the University of North Georgia in Fall 2017.


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