Power and Art: Patronage and Modern American Literature


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project analyzes the relation between patronage and literature in the US in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It argues for a re-thinking of the economic history of American literature, a history which has emphasized the determining power of the market in the production of modern literature. By demonstrating the importance of patronage in helping writers to negotiate the literary market, this project shows that an exclusive focus on a "free market" in ideas impoverishes our understanding of American literary history. The project focuses especially but not exclusively on minority and dissident writers, and the ways in which patronage enabled them to gain access to the market, even if it also often circumscribed what they produced.