Taking her cue from W. E. B. Du Bois, Juliana Spahr explores how state interests have shaped U.S. literature. What is the relationship between literature and politics? Can writing be revolutionary? Can art be autonomous or is escape from nations and nationalisms impossible? As her sobering study affirms, aesthetic resistance is easily domesticated.
"Du Bois's Telegram is a brilliant inquiry into the institutions―from the CIA to the foundations and literary magazines it funded―that inform and shape literary production. The promoted, the funded and heralded, from Richard Wright to Gertrude Stein to James Baldwin, do the work of the nation state under the umbrella of culture. Our complicit freedoms are brought out in the open in this thought-provoking and erudite book. This is not a book to agree or disagree with, but rather a compelling argument that brings relevant facts forward for clear-eyed consideration. One would be remiss to pass on such essential research and analysis."―Claudia Rankine
“Offers a sobering historical account of various resistant movements in U.S. literature through and since the twentieth century―and how easily they were neutralized by dominant forces. What I so admire about this book, in addition to its compelling and cogent analysis, is that Spahr refuses easy answers: she is just as skeptical of poetry’s revolutionary potential as she is committed to its possibility. It’s essential reading for anyone interested in the relationship between poetry and politics.”―Jameson Fitzpatrick, Poetry
“This book is thrilling. Spahr develops a truly original, even clarion, account of the relationship of social movements, avant-garde and politically charged writing, and the foreign policy arm of the United States. A great deal of the power of Du Bois’s Telegram has to do with the way it makes totally unexpected connections among separate discourses, and makes the connections seem necessary and obvious, at a stroke. It is common to praise a book for being potentially field-changing; this book suggests the possibility of changing several fields.”―Christopher Nealon, Johns Hopkins University