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The Un-American Dream

Author(s): Alfred Hornung


Source: Amerikastudien / American Studies, Vol. 44, No. 4 (1999), pp. 545-553
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The Un-AmericanDream

Alfred Hornung

ABSTRACT

Thisessaydiscusses oftheAmerican
a variation Dreamwhichis neither thehopeforthere-
ofeconomic
alization gainsnoritsnegative counterpartofa nightmare,butthebeliefinidealis-
basedon thevaluesystem
ticprinciples connected withthefoundationoftheUnitedStates. The
increasingnumber ofimmigrants at theturnofthelastcentury resulted
in a debateaboutthe
restriction
ofimmigrationindefense ofthemonocultural valuesofWASPAmerica. In response
to theseexclusionary
procedures,so-calledunassimilable
aliensadvancedseemingly Un-Ameri-
can Dreamsfora different kindof America.Fourrepresentatives and theirUn-American
Dreamswillbe glimpsed: thecultural pluralismof theJewish-American HoraceKallen,the
BlackZionismof theAfrican-American AlainLocke,thesocialism of UptonSinclair andthe
plea forindependentwomanhood of theJewish-American writerAnziaYezierska.TheseUn-
American Dreamseventually ledtochanges ina moreopen,multicultural
resulting society.

In manyrespects, theturnof thelastcenturycan be seen as theturning pointof the


concept of the American Dream when it became the Un-American Dream. At home,
the developmentof Americanpoliticsand economicshad reacheda pointwherethe
uncurbedindividualistic realizationof privategoals met withinsurmountable limita-
tionsin termsof competitionand corporatecombines.Abroad,adventurousand in-
dustriousemigrants stillsaw in the UnitedStatesthe land of unlimitedopportunities
forthe creationof happinessand the realizationof privatedreams.It is more than
ironicthat the allurementof the AmericanDream, whichhad motivatedso many
hopefulpeople to come to the United States,had lost its realisticnucleusand had
turnedintonegativity at the timewhenthe figuresof immigration were at theirhigh-
est.Withfewexceptions, theculturalhistoryof theUnitedStatesin thetwentieth cen-
turyis the negativeexfoliationof the AmericanDream. JurgisRudkusin Upton Sin-
clair's The Jungle(1906) and JayGatsbyin F. Scott Fitzgerald'sThe Great Gatsby
(1925) are twofamousexamplesof immigrants in theUnitedStateswho,in pursuitof
two different versionsof the AmericanDream, sufferdefeat.The realisticcounter-
partsof these fictionalrepresentatives of the Un-AmericanDream are the political
radicalson theleftin laborunionsor socialistparties,theliberalreformers in thePro-
gressive Movement and the MuckrakingMovement, and intellectuals
dissatisfied
with
the monocultural definition of a whiteAnglo-SaxonAmerica.Criticalwriters, leftist
politicians,unionleaders,reformers and intellectuals sensed the discrepancy between
theAmericanideals of the FoundingFathersand the Un-Americanrealitiesof an in-
dustrializedmodernnationat the beginningof the twentieth century.Theircommon
persuasion rested on the recognition of the alien in American society,who repre-
sentedforthemthebesthope forthefuture. Theircritiqueof the emptinessand dan-
geroushostilityof the AmericanDream resultedin a deconstruction of the dream
qualityin orderto charta new Americanrealitywhichheld similarhopes forpeople

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546 Alfred
Hornung

at home and abroad who were willingto realize theirpersonaldreamsin the context
ofAmericansociety.

The Reversalof theAmericanDream

The situationat the turnof the centurywas an outcomeof the predominantly ma-
terialisticorientationof a bourgeoissocietywhicharose in the days of Benjamin
Franklinand triedto emulatehismodelof a self-mademanon "The Wayto Wealth."1
Inevitably, thismodel of an individualistic formulated
self-realization, in the Declara-
tionof Independenceand the Constitution of the UnitedStates,was destinedto fail,
especiallyin the economicand social sectors.Thus the politicalrealityof the United
States is determinedby two divergentdevelopmentsin the fieldsof economicsand
culture.In the second halfof the nineteenth century,the economicsectorsees the re-
alizationof theFranklinian promisesin theriseof so-called"Captainsof Industry" or
"robberbarons"accordingto the Social Darwinianprincipleof the "survivalof the
fittest"and the eventualtransformation of individualcapitalistsinto corporatetrusts
in whichtheselfseemsto be "substantiated by thedisappearanceof itsagency."2 This
change from an individualisticconception of the world to a corporateconceptionof
in
reality public lifeseems to be counterbalanced by the realm of culture.Throughout
the nineteenth century experience gradualemancipation Americanliterature
we a of
fromtheconstraints of collectiveexistenceand a shiftto thesolid beliefin thepower
of the individual,the protestation of individualrightsby membersof ethnicgroups,
the affirmation of self-relianceand the Whitmanesquesongs of myself.Modern cul-
tureat theturnof thecenturyis theepitomeof the affirmation of theselfdefying the
incorporating forces of a corporate It
reality.3 comes as no surprise that thisdichot-
omy betweena corporateself in industryand an individualistic self in the arts is
played out over the question of subjecthoodand nationhood.Hence the question
over who is a selfand who is an Americanbecomes so embattledat the timeof the
emancipationof ethnicgroupsand the influxof immigrants at the beginningof the
twentieth century.
The ideologyof the AmericanDream effectively coversover thisdichotomyand
stillfunctionsas a powerfulmotifforcomingto America and formakingit there.
Horatio Alger'ssuccess storiesfromrags to richesare fictionalizations of Franklin's

1 Cf."The forthe25thanniversary issue of Franklin's


Wayto Wealth"(1758),an essaywritten
Almanac.
2 Cf.fora und
generaldescriptionof the historicalbackgroundmystudyNarrativeStruktur
Die Textedes MuckrakingMovement1902-1912(Stuttgart:
Textsortendifferenzierung: Metzler,
1977) 30-62;HowardHorwitz,"Transcendent Agency:Emerson,theStandardTrust,and theVir-
tues of Decorporation,"By theLaw of Nature:Formand Valuein Nineteenth-Century America
(New York:OxfordUP,1991) 171-91;172;PeterConn,TheDividedMind:Ideologyand Imagina-
tioninAmerica,1898-1917(New York:CambridgeUP,1983).
3 Cf.Alan The Incorporation of America:Cultureand Societyin theGildedAge
Trachtenberg,
(New York:Hill and Wang,1982).

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TheUn-American
Dream 547

model,4and immigrantssee tremendouseconomicopportunities


withineasy reach,
unawareof JohnD. Rockefeller'sshrewdformulation:
Thegrowth ofa largebusinessis merely
a survival . . . TheAmerican
ofthefittest. Beauty
rosecan be produced in thesplendorand fragrance
whichbringcheerto itsbeholder
onlybysacrificingtheearlybudswhichgrowup aroundit.Thisis notan eviltendencyin
business.
It is merelytheworking-outofa lawofnatureanda lawofGod.5
The naivebeliefin theAmericanDream as an almostautomaticmovementtoward
personalsuccess and richesand its negativecounterpart of an Americannightmare
resultingfromeconomicprinciplesof growthexpressedin Rockefeller'sstatement are
twosidesof a coin and are literallyconnectedto money.6 Yet,therestillseemsto be a
thirdkind of dream whichI would like to call the Un-AmericanDream. It is the
dream dreamedby those membersof the Americansocietyand immigrants at the
turnof thecenturywho are not- in thedictionof thepre-World Warrhetoric-100%
Americans7and who are classifiedas "unassimilablealiens."8Among these unas-
similablealiens,who in 1911 extendedto EasternEuropean Jewsand SouthernItal-
ians,I countall citizensin Americawho feltexcludedfromthe blessingsof nation-
hood on accountof race,creed and economicstatus.The exclusionfromthe political
statusof being an Americanimpliedat the same time a denial of the American
Dream to theseunassimilablealiens.Hence theirdreamof becomingAmericanneces-
sarilyhad to be idealisticratherthanmaterialistic and had to resortto othermeans
thaneconomics.It is in thiscontextat the momentof thegreatestsuccessand highest
acceptancerate of the materialistic AmericanDream thatwe see its deconstruction
brought about by intellectuals
and social activistsoutside of the range of 100%
Americanness. It is morethanironicthatat the turnof the centurythe politicaland
personalsituationof criticallymindedpeople in the UnitedStates resemblesthatof
the manyimmigrants in theirhome countriesbeforetheyleftforthe United States.
Whilethemuckrakers and progressivesattackedmostlythe excessesof the American
ideals and optedfora returnto the realizationof individualconceptsof happinessas
opposed to the corporaterealityof the land, anotherformof reformwas needed
whichcame fromoutsidethe systemof a materialistic conceptionof the American
Dream.

4 Michael
Denning,MechanicAccents:Dime Novels and Working-Class Culturein America
(New York:Verso,1987).
5 Quoted in WilliamI Ghent,Our BenevolentFeudalism
(New York:The MacmillanCo., 1902)
29.
6 PeterFreese,to whomthisarticleis dedicated,has
repeatedlyarguedforthisbinarymodel
of the AmericanDream and Nightmare: "The AmericanDream and the AmericanNightmare:
GeneralAspectsand LiteraryExamples,"anglistik& englischunterricht 25 (1985): 7-37; 'Amer-
ica': Dream or Nightmare? on a CompositeImage (Essen: Die Blaue Eule, 1990).See
Reflections
also the articlescollectedon the occasionof his sixtiethbirthday:Carin Freywaldand Michael
Porsche,eds.,AmericanDream:Festschrift forPeterFreese(Essen: Die Blaue Eule, 1999).
7 Cf.
UptonSinclair'swork100%: TheStoryof a Patriot(1920). Cf.also WalterBenn Michaels,
Our America:Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism(Durham:NC Duke UP. 1995).
8 The statusof "unassimilablealiens"was an of the 42-volumereportof the Dil-
outgrowth
linghamCommissionon immigration in 1911.See also BerndtOstendorf, "Einwanderungspolitik
der USA: Eine historischeSkizze," Multikulturelle Gesellschaft:Modell Amerika,ed. Berndt
Ostendorf(Mnchen:Fink,1994) 15-31.

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548 AlfredHornung

Un-Americansor the OtherAmericansand theUn-AmericanDream

The people suitedbest forthe formulation of the Un-AmericanDream were the


Un-Americansor the otherAmericanswhose statusas citizenswas stillquestionable
or contestedby the monoculturalideologyof a whiteAnglo-SaxonAmerica.It was
the lastingaccomplishment of such non-or Un-Americansto chartnew waysforthe
regeneration of the American systemwhichstresseda core of Americanvalues based
on the ideals of theFoundingFathersin conjunctionwithnon or Un-Americanideas.
The Un-AmericanDream of theseotherAmericansis not a materialistic one,butide-
alisticand orientedtowarda futurerealizationof the interaction of differentgroups
and individuals. It is the dreamof a different Americaand a differentAmericansoci-
etywhich-in Horace Kallen's words- are groundedon the "Bible of America,"a set
of books whichincludethe Declarationof Independence,the Constitution, Lincoln's
Gettysburg Address,the worksof Emerson,Thoreau,in short,the classic canon of
Americanliterature and politicalculture.9
In the following, I willevoke the ideas of foursuchUn-Americanwriters, who for-
mulate,out of theirpersonaldilemmas,versionsof an Un-AmericanDream: The cul-
turalpluralismof the German-born Jewish-AmericanHorace Kallen,the Black Zion-
ismof the African- AmericanAlain Locke,the socialismof the leftistliberalfromthe
South Upton Sinclair,and the feminism of the Russian-bornJewish-
AmericanAnzia
Yezierska.

Horace Kallen:CulturalPluralism

Variouscriticshave shownthatthe formulation of Kallen's conceptof culturalplu-


ralismwas based on therediscoveryof his ownJewishheritagethroughthereadingof
Americanliterature.His Englishprofessorat Harvard,BarrettWendell,allowed him
betweenPuritanismand Judaismand helped him to see that
to detectthe affinities
the Americanidea of a democraticsocietymeantthe recognition of a mundaneform
of Judaismin theformof Zionism.10Kallen creditsWendellforshowinghim
howtheOld Testament thePuritan
has affected mind[and]tracedtheroleoftheHe-
inthedevelopment
braictradition oftheAmerican the
character Andso I developed
in whatyoumight
interest calltheHebraic,thesecular,
thenon-Judaistic
componentof
andthatnaturally
theentireheritage linkedwithwhatI knewaboutZionism,theHerzl
movement.11
Underthespellof unexpecteddiscrimination againstJewishpeople in WASP Amer-
ica, Kallen rethinkshis futurepossibilitiesand consequentlychangesfromthefieldof

9 Horace Kallen, CulturalPluralismand theAmericanIdea: An Essay in Social Philosophy


P,1956) 87,96.
(Philadelphia:U of Pennsylvania
10See Nation: Horace M. Kallen's CulturalPluralism,"
my "The Birthof a Multicultural
Encounters:Studiesin European-American
Transatlantic Relations,ed. Udo J.Hebel and Karl
Ortseifen(Trier:WVT,1995) 347-58.
11Quoted in Sarah Schmidt,"Horace M. Kallen:The Zionist
Chapter,"The Legacyof Horace
M. Kallen,ed. MiltonR. Konvitz(Rutherford,NJ:FairleighDickinsonUP,1987) 76-89;77.

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TheUn-American
Dream 549

Englishliterature to WiliamJames'spragmatist philosophyand becomesinstrumental


in foundingthe MenorahSocietyat Harvardin 1906.This embracingof a redefined
Jewishculturein intellectualcircles findsits analogy in the new approaches to
Bergson'svitalistphilosophyof fluxand James'spropagationof a "multiverse" super-
sedingtheidea of a closed universe.Kallen's plea fora pluralismof nationswithinthe
largerAmericannationcoincideswithWilliamJames'snotionof a pluralisticworld,
whichhe sees "morelikea federalrepublicthanlikean empireor a kingdom."12
It is against this backgroundthat Jewish-American intellectuals, like Randolph
Bourne and Horace Kallen,develop theirUn-AmericanDreams of "a trans-national
America"or of a culturalpluralismin theUnitedStates.13 In his 1924essay"A Mean-
ing of Americanism," Kallen arguesthat"Americanism as a social ideal could be iden-
tifiedwiththeideal of culture.To be a citizenof the UnitedStateswouldthenbe the
same in value as beinga citizenof the world."Democracybroughtup-to-datewould
actuallybe the politicalprincipleforthe perfectorganizationof a pluralisticsociety:
"In essence,therefore, Democracyinvolves,not the eliminationof differences, but the
perfection and conservationof differences."In contrastto the closely-knit European
nations,he sees the Americanpeople not as a nation-state but as a "mosaic of peo-
ples," and "Americancivilization"as a "multiplicity in a unity,an orchestration of
mankind"whose main goal is not the oneness of the union but the harmonyof the
many.14 Anticipating laterdevelopmentsof our own time,Kallen praisedthe advan-
tages of a multicultural societyin the 1920s and again in the 1950s when Senator
McCarthycondemned"Un-AmericanActivities"by Communistsand subversives,
blindto the insightformulatedby Sarah Schmidt:"Zionism thuswas able to fulfill
two functions forKallen: It allowed himto retainhis Jewishidentityand to become,
thereby, a betterAmerican."15

AmericanZionism
Alain Locke: African-

Theirstatusas Un-Americansand as proponentsof Un-Americanideas linkHor-


ace Kallen and Alain Locke. Locke was a studentin Kallen's sectionof a Santayana
class at Harvardand was the firstblack Rhodes scholarat Oxfordin 1907-08when
Kallen studiedthereand WilliamJamesgave the HibbertLectureswhicheventually
were publishedas A PluralistUniverse.When confronted withracial discrimination
fromRhodes scholarsfromtheSouth,Locke and Kallen arguedthattheblackAmeri-

12WilliamJames,A PluralisticUniverse[1909],Writings 1902-1910(New York: Libraryof


America,1987) 625-819;778;776.
13Cf.
RandolphBourne's addressto the HarvardMenorahSociety,"The Jewand Trans-na-
tionalAmerica,"in whichhe "endorsedthe Zionistmovementas the embodimentof his own
dreamof transnationality" (Casey Nelson Blake,Beloved Community:The CulturalCriticismof
RandolphBourne,Van WyckBrooks,Waldo Frank,and Lewis Mumford[Chapel Hill: U of
NorthCarolinaR 19901119).
14Kallen's
essay quoted fromhis Cultureand Democracyin the UnitedStates:Studiesin the
GroupPsychology ofAmericanPeoples(New York:Boni,1924) 64,61,58,124.
15Horace M. Kallen:ProphetofAmericanZionism(Brooklyn, NY: Carlson,1995) xiii.

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550 Alfred
Hornung

can was "a humanbeing"like everybodyelse.16This Un-Americanidea of a common


humanbond acrossthe color line linksup withthe idea of Pan-Africanism and reap-
pears in the New Negro Movement of the Harlem Renaissance. As early as 1916,
Locke had exploredparticularformsof racialcontactand theirpotentialforredefin-
ing Americannessand Americansociety.17 And in his introduction to the anthology
The New Negro (1925), Locke saw art as a way by whichto bridgethe gap between
the races and to unite all humankind.Based on a recuperationof Africanheritage
and Africanroots,he relatesthe artisticexpressionof the New Negro to the avant-
gardeand to cosmopolitanism. One channel,he argues,is "the consciousnessof acting
as the advance-guardof the Africanpeoples in theircontactwithTwentiethCentury
civilization;theother,thesense of a missionof rehabilitating therace in worldesteem
fromthatloss of prestigeforwhichthe fateand conditionsof slaveryhave so largely
been responsible.Harlem ... is the centerof boththesemovements; she is the home
of the Negro's 'Zionism.'"18By referring to the Jewishattemptsto establisha world-
wide culturalnetworkin theformof Zionism,Locke consciouslyalignedthediscrimi-
nationof AfricanAmericanswiththe fate of Jewswho faced severe formsof anti-
semitismin the 1920s.19Althoughhe did notdirectly expressthepossiblitiesof a com-
mon basis foraction,he stillrecognizedthe emancipatory potentialcontainedin the
commoncause: "As withthe Jew,persecutionis makingthe Negro international."20
Thisinternational reachof ethnicity and Americanization wouldeventuallylead,so he
hoped, to full in
participation American democracy:". . . if in our lifetimethe Negro
shouldnot be able to celebratehis fullinitiationintoAmericandemocracy, he can at
least [based on the New Negro Movementin the arts]celebratethe attainment of a
and
significant satisfying new phase of group development, and with it a spiritual
ComingofAge."21

UptonSinclair:An AmericanSocialist

The attractivenessof the Un-Americanidea of socialismmustbe correlatedto the


immigrationrestrictionpolicyat the beginningof the centuryand to the exclusionof
theunassimilablealiens.East EuropeanJewsand SouthernItalianCatholicswereeas-
ily lumpedtogetherin a politicalcamp of socialistsand anarchistsunfitforWASP

16Cf. Sarah Schmidt,"Horace M. Kallen and the Americanization of Zionism,"Diss. U of


Maryland,1973,49.
17Alain
LeRoy Locke, Race Contactsand InterracialRelations:Lectureson the Theoryand
Practiceof Race. ed. Jeffrey
G Stewart916: Washington. DC: HowardUP. 1992.
18Alain Locke, "The New
Negro," The New Negro,ed. Alain Locke (1925; New York:
Atheneum,1970) 3-16;14.
19In 1920,
HenryFordpromotedthepamphletThe Protocolsof theEldersof Zion,whichdis-
seminatedand nurtured theidea of a secretJewishplan to ruinAmericancapitalismand democ-
racythroughfinancialmachinations, war,and revolution. Cf.ArthurA. Goren,"Jews,"Harvard
Encyclopediaof AmericanEthnicGroups,ed. StephanThernstrom, Ann Orlov,and Oscar Han-
dlin(Cambridge, MA: The BelknapPressofHarvardUP,1980) 571-98;590.
20Locke,"The New
Negro"14.
21Locke,"The New
Negro"16.

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TheUn-American
Dream 551

America.Upton Sinclair'ssocialistleaningsorginatefromhis non-aristocratic South-


ernbackgroundon theone hand,and his missionary associationwiththedismallot of
immigrants and the workingclass on the other.His classicnovel The Jungle(1906) is
not only the epitomeof his outrageover the fate of poor workersin the Chicago
stockyards, butalso an outcryof middle-classAmericansovertheadulteratedfoodon
theirdinnertables.JurgisRudkus,the Lithuanianimmigrant who experiencesthe
transformation of his (economic) AmericanDream into a disastrousnightmareis
made to discoverin the end the blessingsof socialism.Althoughthe novel ends with
the rallycryof the socialistbrotherhood"Chicago willbe ours,"22 the author'sseem-
ing political intention caughtneither the protagonistnor the American readers.The
diffusion of the politicalmessage into a questionof pure food was earlyon recog-
nizedby the equallyromanticfellow-socialist JackLondon.By callingSinclair'snovel
"the'Uncle Tom'sCabin' ofwage slavery,"23 he attemptsa similarlinkbetweendiffer-
ent races and ethnicgroupsin Americaas Alain Locke. The failedchanceof a coop-
erationbetweenAfricanAmericansand otherethnicgroupsalong politicallineswas
againthestrength of WASP America.Sinclair'sdisappointment about hisfailedinten-
tions,couchedin theexclamation, "'I aimed at thepublic'sheart,and by accidentI hit
it in the stomach,'"24 expressedhis ire thatthe messageof the novel was reducedto
the eatinghabitsof bourgeoisAmerica.25 In theirattacksagainstthe socialistauthor
and the socialistsas "the enemiesof the Americaninstitutions,"26 the whiteestab-
lishmentfailedto see thatSinclair'sUn-Americanidea of socialismwas- in his own
words- "just Christianbrotherhood broughtup to date . . . ,"27This could have easily
been deducedfromthereligiousovertonesof ComradeOstrinski'srhetoricpreaching
socialistideas.28When Sinclairran forGovernorin Californiain the 1930s,his EPIC
(End Povertyin California)programdid not differmuchfromthe Democraticparty
platform.The transformation of Sinclair'sUn-AmericanDream, similarto that of
Horace Kallen and Alain Locke,intoa viableAmericanrealityalso appliesto thefor-
merlyUn-Americanidea of feminism.

Anzia Yezierska:An IndependentAmericanWoman

Althoughthe woman'smovementhad gained some groundin the second halfof


the nineteenth the idea of a womanmakingit on her own outsidethe sanc-
century,

22The
Jungle(1906;New York:SignetClassic,1960) 341.
23"JackLondonon 'The ,'" JackLondon,Novelsand Social Writings
Jungle (New York:The Li-
braryofAmerica,1982) 1137-45;1145.
24
Upton Sinclair,The Autobiography of Upton Sinclair(New York: Harcourt,Brace and
World,1962) 135.
:>See also
my LiteraryConventionsand thePoliticalUnconsciousin UptonSinclairs Work,
UptonSinclair:Literature and SocialReform, ed. DieterHerms(Frankfurt/Main: Lang,1990)24-38.
26Sinclair,Jungle256.
27Sinclair, 192.
Autobiography
28Cf. The
Jungle:"[Socialism]was the new religionof humanity-or you mightsay it was the
fulfilment of the old religion,since it impliedbut the literalapplicationof all the teachingsof
Christ"(310).

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552 Alfred
Hornung

tionedinstitutions of Americansocietywas stillconsideredunusual and Un-Ameri-


can. Womenwho belongedto theunassimilablealienshencefacedthedouble trouble
of achievingnationhoodand womanhoodwithinand withoutherethniccommunities.
Growingup in an orthodoxJewishfamily, whichhad emigratedto New York Cityin
1892,Anzia Yezierska experiencedearly on the dilemmaof the Jewishimmigrant
woman who findsherselftorn between two cultures,the orthodoxJudaismin the
ghettoand the WASP mainstream. Marginalizedin bothcultures, Yezierskatriedout
severalversionsof integration into Americanlifewhen she foundthe conventional
familytiestoo limiting forher emancipation. These attemptsat chartinga way foran
independentwoman range froma romanticlove relationshipwithJohnDewey,her
self-realization as a writerof novelsand stories,and her accommodationto the mate-
rialisticversionof the AmericanDream in Hollywood,to the escapistlifein a rural
community of New Englandfarmers, and hersocial commitment to theWorkProgress
Administration. In contrastto demonstrating the conceptionof an independent
woman,thesechronologicalstagesrevealYezierska'sdesireto fulfill herselfin a com-
munityof commonideas and concernsbeyondtheconventionalfamilycirlce.It seems
likelythatthiscommunity orientationwas onlya reactionto hermarginalstatusas an
Un-Americanethnicwoman,and thatbecomingan independentselfwouldhave been
her ideal. The unchronological arrangement of theselifestagesin her autobiography
Red Ribbonon a WhiteHorse lendssupportto such an interpretation.29 Thus she has
her lifestoryend withher discoveryof Emerson'sself-reliance in Nature,away from
the cultureof the cities.The Emersonianconnectionto self-reliance allowsher to ac-
cept her bi-cultural existenceand to combine both "a concept of multicultural
plural-
ism and descent-orientedparticularism"as an independent Jewish-American
woman.30In thatsense,she does not succumbto the meltingpot ideologyand pre-
sentsa countermodel to Mary Antin'sassimilationist autobiographyThe Promised
Land (1912). This countermodel envisionsan intercultural understanding between
different ethnicgroups and the acceptanceof differenceand othernesswithinthe
scope of America.In her essay "Americaand I," she outlinesthe continuousprocess
of the makingof Americaand of Americansand the constantrenewalof theirvalues
and ideas in contactwiththealien and newcomer:
I sawAmerica-a bigidea- a deathless hope-a worldstillin themaking. I sawthatit
wastheglory ofAmerica thatitwasnotyetfinished.AndI, thelastcomer, hadhershare
to give,smallor great,to themaking of America,likethosePilgrimswhocamein the
Mayflower. ... I beganto builda bridgeofunderstandingbetween theAmerican-born
andmyself. Sincetheirlifewasshutoutfromsuchas me,I beganto openup mylifeand
thelivesofmypeopleto them.Andlifedrawslife.In onlywriting abouttheGhettoI
foundAmerica.... The Americans oftomorrow, theAmericathatis everydaynearer
coming to be,willbe toowise,tooopen-hearted, to lettheleastlast-
toofriendly-handed,
comerat theirgatesknockinvainwithhisgiftsunwanted.31

29Red Ribbonon a WhiteHorse (1950;New York:Persea Books,1987).


30Cf.SandraBrck's MA Thesis,"Patternsof Americanization
in JewishWomens Autobiogra-
phies,"Mainz 1997,86-107;91.
iV"Americaand I, lhe Upen
Lage: An Anzia YezierskaCollection,ed. Alice Kessler-Harns
(New York:PersaBooks,1979) 20-33;33.

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TheUn-American
Dream 553

Often,the so-calledUn-AmericanDreams,such as Yezierska'sardentbeliefin a


pluralisticAmericaopen to theincorporation of Un-Americanswho assistin bringing
about necessarychanges to the cultureand politicsof a countryby transforming
seemingly Un-AmericanDreams intoAmericanrealities, turnout to be Americanbe-
liefsand valuesof thepast,forgotten in a commercialpresent.
Yezierskasubstantiated her idea of an independentselfwithher readingof Emer-
son. Similarly, Horace Kallen,Alain Locke and Upton Sinclairevoked the ideals of
the FoundingFathersas well as the civiland Christianreligionof America.It is only
late in lifethattheseproponentsof Un-Americanideas could surmisethe effectsof
theirideas upon a changed Americansociety.Kallen's idea of culturalpluralism
formeda vital part of the discussionsabout a multicultural societyin the United
States and Europe. Locke's avant-gardist notionof African-American art as an ex-
pression of a new image of black people in the United States and elsewhere saw its
fulfillment in the Civil RightsMovementand the powerfulrole of African-American
culturetoday.Sinclair'scommitment to the advancementof the less fortunatemem-
bers of a modernsocietyin his EPIC campaignbecame partof the Democraticplat-
formand seemsto be operativeagain afterthe Reagan years.Yezierska'shope foran
Emersonianself-realization as a woman became a realityin the second and third
waves of thewomen'smovement. At the same time,she prefigured the rediscovery of
Emersonforthe politicsand cultureof contemporary America.32All of these Un-
Americandreamerswho powerfully influencedAmericanrealityin the makingopted
foran inclusiveconceptionof Americannessand forintercultural understanding on
an international scope.

32Cf.,
e.g.,RichardPoirier,The Renewalof Literature:
EmersonianReflections(New York:
RandomHouse,1987);fortherelationof thisEmersonianrediscoveryto Americanexceptional-
ism,see GnterH. Lenz and Heinz Ickstadt,"AfterPoststructuralism
and Deconstruction:
A
New AmericanExceptionalism?" and Negationin Contemporary
Affirmation AmericanCulture,
ed. GerhardHoffmann and AlfredHornung(Heidelberg:Winter,1994) 177-94.

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