Is there anything good that can be said about the current recession? Well, the last depression was one of the greatest creative periods of our time, so maybe this one will be too.

Researcher Miles Orvell says, “?Adversity and hardship can bring out creativity.” The Great Depression is currently all the rage, with New Yorkers hosting Depression parties, peasant skirts and newsboy caps making a return on the runways, and Netflix rentals of The Grapes of Wrath on the rise. But that 1939 Steinbeck novel is not the only Depression-era work worth taking a second (or a first) look at from our current perspective in what some are calling the New Depression.

Common themes found in the literature of the period are despair, poverty, corruption, strife between labor and management, and the need to work together. Orvell says, “The period also birthed several new genres, such as the melodrama, which laid the foundation for today’s soap opera, and it brought the detective novel to fulfillment, with the heroic detective stoically dealing with corruption and the underside of life in cities like New York, Los Angles and San Francisco.

“The literature of the Depression has been largely dismissed from the cultural record,” explains Orvell. “By the post WWII era, the anti-communist and neo-conservative movements looked back at the depression and anything from the left as the work of the ‘communist devil.’ And that has carried over into our own day.”

According to Orvell, a current standard survey textbook of American literature devotes just three pages out of 1500 to Depression Era literature. Yet he notes that “the literature of the Depression reflects a critical period in our history and one that had a lasting impact by bringing us social security, roads, post-offices, and banking regulations.”

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