journal of art and issues
“What’s Lib Lit? – Library, map, lens, scalpel, compost, chisel, textbook, excavation: voices, images, wrestling, contradicting, confirming, the matter of resistant art and practise.”
– Adrienne Rich
“The relation between literature and liberation runs very deep. From Blake to Ginsberg, Shelley to Sartre, literature has often enough served as an image of creativity from which any authentic politics has to learn. In this sense, all artistic work has an implicit utopian dimension; but the pieces in this splendid anthology are unique in explicitly highlighting this concealed underside of literary art, showing us how to hope and desire otherwise. In a darkening political world, this book deserves a wide readership, as it sheds a light on the present from a possible future.”
– Terry Eagleton
Liberation Lit publishes progressive and revolutionary fiction
and other liberatory art.
What is art in face of torture,
Art may be liberatory.
The artworks of Liberation Lit –
personal in especially public
as well as private focus –
are gathered toward that end –
to engage, to enlighten, to liberate.
“Most of the literature of the world has been propagandistic in one way or another…. In a word, the revolutionary critic does not believe that we can have art without craftsmanship; what he does believe is that, granted the craftsmanship, our aim should be to make art serve man as a thing of action and not man serve art as a thing of escape.” – V. F. Calverton
Founding Editors: Tony Christini and Andre Vltchek
Associate Editor: Joe Emersberger
Comments are moderated.
Views on liberation literature by V. F. Calverton —
The Liberation of American Literature:
“Revolutionary art has to be good art first before it can have deep meaning, just as apples in a revolutionary country as well as in a reactionary country have to be good apples before they can be eaten with enjoyment.”
“Most of the literature of the world has been propagandistic in one way or another…. In a word, the revolutionary critic does not believe that we can have art without craftsmanship; what he does believe is that, granted the craftsmanship, our aim should be to make art serve man as a thing of action and not man serve art as a thing of escape.
“That the attempt to be above the battle is evidence of a defense mechanism can scarcely be doubted. Only those who belong to the ruling class, in other words, only those who had already won the battle and acquired the spoils, could afford to be above the battle. Fiction which was propagandistic, that is, fiction which continued to participate in the battle, it naturally cultivated a distaste for, and eschewed. Fiction which was above the battle, that is fiction which concerned only the so-called absolutes and eternals, with the ultimate emotions and the perennial tragedies, but which offered no solutions, no panaceas — it was such fiction that won its adoration.
“…except in the United States, revolutionary critics have often been harder taskmasters from the point of literary quality than aesthetic critics….
“The revolutionary critic should demand as much of the art he endorses as the reactionary. …[great revolutionary] films are great not because they are [only progressive in ideology] but because they are great first in their formal organization, and then greater still because of the social purpose which they serve.
“The revolutionary…critic does not aim to underestimate literary craftsmanship. What he contends is simply that literary craftsmanship is not enough. The craftsmanship must be utilized to create objects of revolutionary meaning. Only through this synthesis does the revolutionary critic believe that art can serve its most important purpose today. Revolutionary meanings without literary craftsmanship constitute as hopeless a combination from the point of view of the radical critic as literary craftsmanship without revolutionary purpose. …most of the literature of the world has been propagandistic in one way or another, including even that of William Shakespeare and George Bernard Shaw….”
“This much should be clear, however, and that is that [revolutionary] writers are not to be confused with literary rebels. Literary rebels believe in revolt in literature; left-wing…writers believe in revolt in life…are more interested in social revolt than in literary revolt.”
“Unlike Ibsen, [revolutionary writers] do not ask questions and then refuse to answer them. Unlike the iconoclasts, they are not content to tear down the idols and stop there. Their aim is to answer questions as well as ask them, and to provide a new order to replace an old one. Their attitude, therefore, is a positive instead of a negative one.”
Historical tendency of liberation literature in the United States
Key books of criticism by V. F. Calverton, Upton Sinclair and Bernard Smith explore the tendency (or tradition and lack thereof) of liberation literature far better – more thoroughly, incisively, and in greater context despite flaws – than any other group of texts of the time period (add a number of essays by Kenneth Burke of the time), and they remain unusually valuable, and buried.