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Maximum Feasible ParticipationAmerican Literature and the War on Poverty$
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Stephen Schryer

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781503603677

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503603677.001.0001

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Writing Urban Crisis after Moynihan

Writing Urban Crisis after Moynihan

(p.99) 4 Writing Urban Crisis after Moynihan
Maximum Feasible Participation

Stephen Schryer

Stanford University Press

This chapter explores literary responses to the late 1960s crisis in participatory professionalism, provoked by the period’s race riots and by conservatives’ successful appropriation of liberal poverty discourse. The chapter focuses on two texts that address the Community Action Program: Joyce Carol Oates’s them and Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers. While these texts voice opposing political positions, both distrust white liberal efforts to speak for the ghetto, drawing on traditions of urban writing (naturalism and literary journalism) that resist the process imperative to break down barriers between author, audience, and lower-class subject matter. At the same time, both writers complicate their literary objectivity by incorporating aspects of the very participatory professionalism they seek to delimit.

Keywords:   Joyce Carol Oates, them, Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, naturalism, literary journalism, Daniel Moynihan

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