Books by Christopher Vials
Although fascism is typically associated with Europe, the threat of fascism in the United States haunted the imaginations of activists, writers, and artists, spurring them to create a rich, elaborate body of cultural and political work. Traversing the Popular Front of the 1930s, the struggle against McCarthyism in the 1950s, the Black Power movement of the 1960s, and the AIDS activism of the 1980s, Haunted by Hitler highlights the value of “antifascist” cultural politics, showing how it helped to frame the national discourse.
Vials examines the ways in which anxieties about fascism in the United States have been expressed in the public sphere, through American television shows, Off-Broadway theater, party newspapers, bestselling works of history, journalism, popular sociology, political theory, and other media. He argues that twentieth-century liberals and leftists were more deeply unsettled by the problem of fascism than those at the center or the right and that they tirelessly and often successfully worked to counter America’s fascist equivalents.
Realism for the Masses is an exploration of how the concept of realism entered mass culture, and from there, how it tried to remake “America.” The literary and artistic creations of American realism are generally associated with the late nineteenth century. But this book argues that the aesthetic actually saturated American culture in the 1930s and 1940s and that the left social movements of the period were in no small part responsible. The book examines the prose of Carlos Bulosan and H. T. Tsiang; the photo essays of Margaret Bourke-White in Life magazine; the bestsellers of Erskine Caldwell and Margaret Mitchell; the boxing narratives of Clifford Odets, Richard Wright, Nelson Algren; and the Hollywood boxing film, radio soap operas, and the domestic dramas of Lillian Hellman and Shirley Graham, and more.
These writers and artists infused realist aesthetics into American mass culture to an unprecedented degree and also built on a tradition of realism in order to inject influential definitions of “the people” into American popular entertainment. Central to this book is the relationship between these mass cultural realisms and emergent notions of pluralism. Significantly, Vials identifies three nascent pluralisms of the 1930s and 1940s: the New Deal pluralism of “We’re the People” in The Grapes of Wrath; the racially inclusive pluralism of Vice President Henry Wallace’s “The People’s Century”; and the proto-Cold War pluralism of Henry Luce’s “The American Century.”