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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   



11. Modernist Portraits

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- Sherwood Anderson
- Hart Crane
- F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Susan Glaspell
- Ernest Hemingway
- Nella Larsen
- Marianne Moore
- John Dos Passos
- Gertrude Stein
- Wallace Stevens
- Suggested
Author
Pairings
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Hart Crane (1899-1932)

New York City Views. Financial District, framed by Brooklyn Bridge
[7194] Samuel H. Gottscho, New York City Views. Financial District, framed by Brooklyn Bridge, courtesy of the Library of Congress [LC-G612-T01-21249].

Hart Crane Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
Though Hart Crane only lived thirty-three years, the rich poetry he produced provides readers with an alternative view of modernity--his poems seek connectedness and optimism in a world many of his contemporaries saw as fragmented and hopeless. His life was not an easy one; his relationship with his parents was strained, he drank heavily, and he was homosexual at a time when homosexuality was not openly discussed, much less tolerated. Born in Ohio, Hart Crane moved to New York at the age of eighteen to pursue a career as a writer. Two years later, he returned to Ohio to try his hand at business in order to support himself while he worked at the craft of writing. Though he was not especially successful in business, in his four years in Cleveland Crane developed friendships with a variety of intellectuals and published several of the poems that established his literary reputation. "Chaplinesque" appeared in 1921 and "For the Marriage of Faustus and Helen" was published in 1922. In 1923 he returned to New York City to begin his writing career in earnest.

His first four years in New York were very productive: he finished his sequence Voyages and in 1926 published his first collection of poetry, entitled White Buildings. Ten of the fifteen poems that constitute his long work The Bridge were also completed during this period. Though he worked occasionally, he was supported primarily by friends and family, in particular a banker named Otto Kahn, who became something of a patron.

Crane thought of himself as a visionary in the tradition of the celebratory optimism of Walt Whitman. Crane was interested in the methods of modernism, but did not share completely the modernist pessimism about the state of the contemporary world. Rather than bemoan the loss of a time past, Crane's work sought affirmation and hope in the fabric of everyday life. In The Bridge, Crane employs the Brooklyn Bridge as a symbol to suggest the unifying potential of the modern world: the bridge links far-flung reaches of the United States in a celebration of the possibilities of America and its people. Published in 1930, the poem did not receive favorable reviews from critics. It won an award from Poetry magazine, however, and Crane received a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation that year as well. Nonetheless, Crane was uncertain about his career in literature, and on his return from Mexico, where he had been working on another book, he jumped from the ship and drowned.



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