Uniform TitleUnderground subjects: public transportation and perception in New York modernist literature
NameStalter, Sunny (author), Diamond, Elin (chair), McGill, Meredith (internal member), Davidson, Harriet (internal member), Buckley, Matthew (internal member), Lears, T.J. (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
SubjectEnglish, Literatures in,
Subways in literature,
Modernism (Literature)--New York (State)--New York
DescriptionThis dissertation investigates the relationship between public transportation and New York modernist literature. It argues that the experience of riding the subway and elevated train shapes the forms and themes of modernist writing, while textual representations of these spaces of transit in turn shape the modern understanding of urban subjectivity. Exploring the tension between the embodied, habitual ride and the abstract transportation system, New York modernist writers represent the sense of being in thrall to forces of modernity, interrogate the connection between space and psychology, and envision new pathways between the past and the present.
I begin with an analysis of the intertwined discourses necessary to a consideration of modernism and public transportation, including visuality and spatial theory, the history of technology, and urban studies. Through readings of American Expressionist plays by Elmer Rice and Osip Dymov, I locate a modernist theatricality in the subway car, one centered on ideas of claustrophobia and fantasy. I then turn to Harlem Renaissance writers Rudolph Fisher and Walter White, whose migration narratives embrace the transitional potential of the mechanized journey North even as they warn against the illusory vision of Harlem seen from the subway steps. Next, I suggest that the affective poetic fusion of Hart Crane's long poem The Bridge finds its equal in the complex network of subway tunnels between Manhattan and Brooklyn, in which Crane locates a new genealogy of American poetry. I conclude by moving aboveground, considering surrealist artist Joseph Cornell's experimental film Gnir Rednow as it participates in and offers alternatives to postwar New York artists' nostalgia for the soon-to-be-razed Third Avenue El. In each of these versions of modernism, public transportation lies at the intersection of material culture and metaphor. Cutting across genres and movements, I hope to remap the boundaries of early twentieth-century American literature as well as underscore the role of technology in the construction of the urban imaginary.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references (p. 208-234).
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.