Malcolm Cowley's claim that American literature has never dealt with the question of fascism is a key moment in the separation of literary studies and politics. Arguing that politics is too ideological and crude to grapple with the nuances of the text, Cowley cites Carson McCullers's The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1940) as a primary example of what politics cannot express. This essay takes up McCullers's novel as a case study, contrasting it with Sinclair Lewis's antifascist It Can't Happen Here (1935). Rather than treating fascism as an ideologically monolithic phenomenon, however, I draw on recent research that has turned to the private concerns of everyday life, or micropolitics, under fascist regimes. McCullers's emphasis on the micropolitical dimension of small-town American life echoes these recent insights in fascism studies, demonstrating the evident transatlantic context of American life at the everyday level and the pervasive concerns about fascism in the 1930s. In contrast to Lewis's crudely political novel, micropolitical literature like McCullers's novel is in a special position to provide insights into the quotidian struggle to characterize and respond to large-scale political developments, providing new avenues for investigating the commonplace dynamics that eventually well up into official history and ideologically driven politics.
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Research Article| December 01 2014
Wilson Kaiser; The Micropolitics of Fascism in Carson McCullers's The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and Sinclair Lewis's It Can't Happen Here. Genre 1 December 2014; 47 (3): 285–307. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-2797189
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