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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

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James Wright - Selected Archive Items

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[4528] René Magritte, La Condition Humaine (1933),
courtesy of the National Gallery of Art and Artist Rights Society: 1987.55.1./PA: Magritte, René, La condition humaine, Gift of the Collectors Committee, Photograph © 2002 Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington; © 2002 C. Herscovici, Brussels/Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Painting of window and easel showing landscape. This work explores the divisions between realism and representationalism. Poet James Wright learned from Pablo Neruda, Cesar Vallejo, and Georg Trakl a form of surrealism in which the connections between images seem absent.

[7397] Anonymous, Happy Hooligan It Is to Laugh: Nothing But Fun (1902),
courtesy of the Library of Congress [POS-TH-1902. H36, no. 3].
Happy Hooligan, a cartoon by Frederick Burr Opper, featured a jobless character with a small tin can hat. Anthropologists have noted that traditionally powerful groups often use humor to restore and reinforce jeopardized hierarchies and power relations. Poet James Wright, writing in the mid-twentieth century, often focused on U.S. class issues.

[8618] Various, National Vietnam Examination (1966),
courtesy of Special Collections, Michigan State University Libraries.
Exam distributed by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Inter-University Committee for Debate on Foreign Policy. The SDS was a major force in organizing protests and other forms of opposition to the Vietnam War. Many American poets protested the war, including Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Robert Bly, Robert Lowell, Adrienne Rich, James Wright, and Galway Kinnell.

[9149] Anonymous, Federal Wire & Steel Co.'s Plant, Cleveland, Ohio (c. 1920),
courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection [LC-D4-72257 DLC].
James Wright was born in Martins Ferry, Ohio, across the river from Wheeling, West Virginia, where his father worked in a glass factory. Wright's poetry is saturated with images of, and commentary on, the impact of industrialization on the natural landscape.

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