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Introduction & Overview of In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams

This Study Guide consists of approximately 141 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of In the American Grain.
This section contains 346 words
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In the American Grain Summary & Study Guide Description

In the American Grain Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Further Reading and a Free Quiz on In the American Grain by William Carlos Williams.


Although he is best known as a poet, William Carlos Williams's literary output spanned many genres. He wrote numerous novels, dozens of short stories, an autobiography, and a history book and meditation on the true nature of the American character. In this book, Williams attacks the Puritan legacy that he sees as a crippling influence on America and praises the figures in American history who fully engaged with the people and land of the New World. "The pure products of America go crazy," he wrote in his poem "To Elsie," and his book In the American Grain is an attempt to explain why.

Williams was a member of the literary movement known as modernism. Some of the movement's greatest figures, including T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, and James Joyce, bemoaned the state of the modern world and looked to past cultures as their inspiration. America, for these writers, epitomized the shallow, philistine, history-less, materialistic strain of culture that was beginning to dominate the modern world. These modernist writers (and dozens of others) left their home nations to find refuge and an artistic home in other countries. Eliot repudiated his Americanness and became a British citizen; Pound maintained his interest in the United States but held a condescending view of his home country.

Williams, almost alone among important modernist writers, stayed in America and devoted himself to appreciating aspects of American culture ignored by his modernist comrades. Through his medical practice, Williams served the workingclass and poor citizens of northern New Jersey. He wrote poetry suffused with the imagery and characteristic verbal expressions of America's diverse communities. He also studied the history of the United States, attempting to define America's place in the world differently than did the apologists of manifest destiny or the European detractors. With In the American Grain, written when Williams was forty years old, he added to the observations of a lifetime a systematic study of the original documents of America's discovery and colonization. In the book, he rereads American history in an attempt to identify what really makes up the American "grain."

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This section contains 346 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our In the American Grain Study Guide
In the American Grain from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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