Scogan's choice : Vachel Lindsay's short fiction, poetry, and prose

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2010-05

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Virtually all commentators on the work of Vachel Lindsay have seen his poetry and prose as primarily artistic and for the most part indecipherable. I have tried to show that Lindsay intended to address social construction in America. He tried to use his art to change America, first and foremost, but also the world. And the changes he wanted to enact revolved around the issues of race, religion, feminism, and temperance. Lindsay wanted to alter the racial hierarchy in America to promote a more inclusive perspective. But not to make it all inclusive. And one of the prime motivations for Lindsay's interest in race was to change his own status within the hierarchy. There was an American Indian branch to his family tree. Consequently Indians became prime candidates for social inclusion in his poetry and prose. The Springfield race riots of 1908 represented a formative experience for Lindsay and helped propel him to a discussion of race. Lindsay claimed Springfield, Illinois as home, and the injustice and brutality of the riots shamed him and clashed with his perspective of civilized and religious advancement. In writing "The Congo," The Art of the Moving Picture, and The Golden Book of Springfield, Lindsay saw himself as promoting racial harmony and equality. However, he intentionally promoted harmony and order at the expense of equality. I conclude my dissertation with an obseration from the sociologist Herbert Marcuse to the effect that saving oneself at the expense of others is hardly a heoic act.

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