Post 9: Finishing Up

It’s exciting to be getting ready to begin the Fall semester and all of the Honors work ahead! Looking back, I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to have been able to travel to several archives and to be able to access the special collections archives at three Ivy-League universities. No doubt, my work over the summer will prove valuable during the next stage of my work in which I refine and hone in on the key themes emerging in my research.

A brief recap of my research for readers unfamiliar with my project: my summer work largely consisted of finding and analyzing manuscripts, drafts, letters (to friends, other writers, editors, publishers, etc.), and other archival material produced by and regarding Nathanael West and his work. These items were located at several archives across the country, three of which (Brown, Harvard, and Yale) I was able to visit.

To reiterate an earlier post, the overall goal of my project will be to discuss a fuller range of Nathanael West’s work than most discussions cover. I intend to discuss and analyze West’s novels, short stories, and letters, and his unpublished works, and screenplays, which are usually overlooked or marginalized in the analyses of West’s work. In particular, I will address the role religion plays in his work and the ways in which West saw media (such as cinema, newspapers, and radio) propagating secular capitalist fantasies in 1930’s America, which West saw as commercialized substitutes for earlier religious faith. His bleak, darkly comic satires on American ideals of success, spiritual comfort, and romance portray such hopes as media-manipulated and unachievable in the hyper-fragmented contemporary US rife with art and religion awash in pastiche and cliché. West’s critiques of consumerism, atomized materialist individualism, the replacement of religion with media, and his belief in the futility of master-narratives to convey a true depiction of 1930’s American Capitalist society parallel aspects of Frederic Jameson’s analysis of Late Capitalism, which I intend to use to assist my analysis of West’s work.

Over the summer, I have uncovered lots of letters and unpublished works in addition to delving deeply into West’s work.