socialist naturalism – I coined this term to describe the kind of work The Grapes of Wrath is, as a representative American text from the 1930s, the decade of the Great Depression. Some literary historians talk about "proletarian literature," or "socialist realism," or (like Alain Locke, in his review of Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, which though written in the 30s doesn't fit this category) "motive fiction." All these labels are simply conveniences, shorthand ways to point to literary texts that take a political stand, that depict the plight of the "dispossessed" in the 30s not as the inevitable result of an irreversible "modernity" (like the ex-patriates in Hemingway or the fallen Southern artistocrats in Faulkner) but as victims of an unjust, exploitative (and broken) capitalist economic system. Works with this label are identifiably left-wing, though only a few of the best known American writers on the 30s actually joined the American Communist Party. Because their works had a political purpose, these writers like Steinbeck (and Dos Passos, Wright, Farrell, Odets, etc.) rejected the Modernist aesthetic of difficulty, turning back instead to the mass or popular reader. And as we noted in class, during the 30s even writers like Hemingway became more engaged with political ideas in their texts, and saw collective action as a means to save the nation from its ills.
stream of consciousness – "as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen": that's how Eliot puts it in "The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," to describe the way the poem gives us direct access to Prufrock's thoughts. James Joyce didn't invent this form of developing character or narrative, though his use of it in Ulysses taught other Modernists like Woolf and Faulkner how to use it. Already in the 19th century Henry James told stories in the 3rd person from the point of view of a single consciousness like Marcher's, but the stream of consciousness technique carries that tendency further. When a writer uses the technique, she records the unmediated thoughts of a character; the character is not narrating or telling a story, or even aware that readers are "there," but simply thinking (though in the first 3 parts of The Sound and the Fury, which give us the thoughts of the Compson brothers on 3 different days, the thoughts are far from simple!). As a technique, it reflects the modern sense that "reality" is subjective (private, unshared, often beneath conscious thought) and typically emphasizes the idea of alienation.