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Would another Depression make us more creative?

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“If it’s true that adversity and hardship can bring out creativity,” writes Miles Orvell, professor of English and American studies at Temple University in a Temple newsletter, “then the Great Depression was one of the great creative periods of our time.”

Many people today are looking back to the Depression of the 1930s in trying to understand today's faltering economy. Orvell suggests that re-reading the literature of the era could also be instructive. He argues that although the literature of the Great Depression is largely overlooked today, it was a rich field.

“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,” Orvell writes.

However, post-World War II discomfort with anything that seemed politically too far left caused the literature of the Depression to be largely dismissed from the country's cultural record, says Orvell.

Orvell also notes that New Deal programs helped to nurture young talent, including aspiring writers and directors, such as Saul Bellow, Richard Wright, Arthur Miller, John Houseman, and Orson Welles.


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