The relationship between culture and nationalism in the period is one that is worth considering as constructed. Warren Susman argues that with the domestication of the idea of culture, the 1930s produced "a new era of nationalism," (Culture as History157) one not necessarily unprecedented in its conclusions but in its scope. If a concept like "culture" becomes popular, does this necessarily ensure that it will become linked to nationalist ideology?

Some scholars have argued that the effectiveness of the New Deal vision of America as a "nation of communities" (Bold) was responsible for a popular cultural nationalism. As a political vision, this was a quite flexible schema, enabling "America" to be simultaneously united and wildly diverse. Within this framework, the more particular our individual communities' subcultures, the more authentically American we prove to be.

We can see some of this ideology at work in the rhetoric surrounding the Federal Writers' Project's work. FDR said of the state guides during American Guide Week, a promotional campaign in November 1941:

All [guidebooks] were compiled and written on the spot by men and women who knew the particular locale in all its richness, with the result that the books clearly and graphically portray not only the ideals and traditions shared by all Americans but also the diverse local patterns of thought and behavior that distinguish our free and democratic way of life...At this time of crisis, when every student needs to know what America is and what it stands for, educators everywhere should be aware of the invaluable contribution that has been made by the American Guide series. (see source Bold 14)

In a triumph of New Deal logic, the guides manage both to convey essentially, universally American themes and to maintain the multicultural integrity of the image of the nation. (And, evidentally, to be good indoctrinating tools of this ideology of pluralism).




Juliet Gorman, May 2001






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