Literary Legacies of the Federal Writers’ Project

Voices of the Depression in the American Postwar Era

  • Sara Rutkowski

Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)

Table of contents

About this book


The first book-length literary analysis of the WPA’s Federal Writers’ Project (FWP)—a massive New Deal program that put thousands to work documenting the country during the Depression. Drawing on critical histories, archival documents, and select works of fiction, the book examines the nature and history of the FWP’s documentary method and its literary imprint, particularly on three key black American writers: Ralph Ellison, Dorothy West, and Margaret Walker. By aiming their documentary lenses so precisely on individual voices, folklore, and cultural communities, FWP writers would ultimately eschew the social realism of thirties culture in favor of themes surrounding personal and cultural identities in the postwar era. This concise volume demonstrates how the FWP served as a repository from which many of the most treasured 20th century writers drew material, techniques, and philosophical direction in ways that would help steer the course of American writing.


Federal Writers’ Project Great Depression Ralph Ellison Postwar American Literature

Authors and affiliations

  • Sara Rutkowski
    • 1
  1. 1.English DepartmentKingsborough Community College: City University of New YorkBrooklynUSA

Bibliographic information