The main purpose of the book is to expand the scope of revisionary studies of the thirties by analyzing novels using recent innovations in critical theory. The book adds to the research of Barbara Foley, Michael Denning, Alan Wald, and others who have challenged Cold-War-era accounts of the decade's socialist and communist culture. The book explores leftist literature from the thirties as balanced between two antithetical philosophical modalities: identity and ideology. Writers create identitarian fiction, he argues, as they attempt to appeal to a mainstream audience using familiar types and patterns culled from mass culture. They engage ideology, on the other hand, when they use narrative as a means of critiquing those same types and patterns using strategies of ideological critique similar to those of their European contemporary Georg Lukacs.
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