There are various theories about why the concept of the real was so important to the period. Some critics have identified it as a primarily twentieth-century phenomenon; Miles Orvell argues that while "the tension between imitation and authenticity is a primary category in American civilization, pervading layers of our culture that are usually thought to be separate...a major shift occurred...from the late nineteenth century to the twentieth century, a shift from a culture in which the arts of imitation and illusion were valorized to a culture in which the notion of authenticity became of primary value" (xv).

In this same spirit Michael Kammen proposes that in the 1930s "truth" was a stable concept, in contrast to destabilizing modernist interests in the irrational, the subconscious, and the impulsive (Mystic Chords of Memory299).

William Stott has suggested that during a time of collective crisis there is a deep psychology of mistrust that leads to speculation about what is authentic. Thus the loss of control that the Depression signified for most Americans, he argues, made them anxious about what information was reliable (67-73).




Juliet Gorman, May 2001