The Depression Era
A Historical Exploration of Literature
by Aaron Barlow
June 2016, 208pp, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-705-7
$76, £59, 67€, A105
Please contact your preferred distributor for pricing.
eBook Available: 978-1-61069-706-4
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The social unrest during the Great Depression led Americans to re-evaluate their ideals—and the literature of the time reflects this shift.

Through a diversity of primary source resources that include works by politicians and literary figures, book reviews, and interviews, this book enables student readers to better understand literature of the Great Depression in context through original documents.

Oklahoma drought refugees seeking livelihood in California, rural white Mississippians, and African American migrants making new lives in Chicago all represented the dramatic transitions across the spectrum of American life during the Great Depression. These vastly different groups of Americans still shared common experiences of desperation and poverty during the 1930s. This book focuses on literary works by three Depression-era authors—William Faulkner, John Steinbeck, and Richard Wright—and supplies dozens of primary source documents that serve to illuminate the harsh realities of life in the 1930s and enable students to better appreciate key pieces in American literature from the Great Depression era.

The Depression Era: A Historical Exploration of Literature gives readers historical context for multiple works of American literature about the Great Depression through a wide range of features, including chronologies, essays explaining key events, and primary document excerpts as well as support materials that include activities, lesson plans, discussion questions, topics for further research, and suggested readings. The book’s coverage includes William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying (1930), John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men (1937), The Grapes of Wrath (1939), and Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940).


  • Provides readers with an understanding of the great cultural issues of life in America in the 1930s
  • Integrates and aligns material for the ELA Common Core Standards and American literature and social studies curriculum, supplying useful tools to support literary works—analysis, history, document excerpts, discussion questions, and areas for study
  • Places three of the most significant writers of the decade within the sources of turmoil that affected their fiction
  • Enables readers to construct their own visions of how three great writers represented the changing aspects of American culture in that era
Aaron Barlow, PhD, is associate professor of English at New York City College of Technology (CUNY). His published work includes Praeger's The Cult of Individualism: A History of an Enduring American Myth; Beyond the Blogosphere: Information and Its Children (with Robert Leston); Quentin Tarantino: Life at the Extremes; Blogging America: The New Public Sphere; The Rise of the Blogosphere; and The DVD Revolution: Movies, Culture, and Technology.
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