I am currently seeking contributors from across the disciplines for a proposed collection of essays on the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP). As the first multidisciplinary retrospective of the FWP, Rewriting America: The Federal Writers’ Project and its Ongoing Impact on American Culture will address two important questions: What impact did the FWP have on American culture AND how can this program guide us in the future?
This proposed collection is under review by a university press.
Between 1935 and 1943, the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) put more than six-thousand unemployed professionals to work documenting American life. As part of Roosevelt’s New Deal, federal writers collected reams of oral histories, folklore, and former slave narratives, wrote descriptive essays, and produced dozens of guides to cities and states across the country. It was an unprecedented undertaking, and one with extraordinary consequences for American culture that we are still experiencing today.
Consider this: the FWP helped create the field of oral history and laid the groundwork for modern documentary writing; it provided the largest single repository of eye-witness accounts of slavery from the perspective of formerly enslaved people, and, by helping to launch the careers of many of the country’s most famous writers, it influenced the direction of American literature; it helped changed how we think about the role of public investment, and, in its quest for national self-discovery, the FWP contributed to rewriting a modern, pluralist American identity.
The legacy of the FWP is extensive. And understandably, scholarship and criticism of the program has been spread out across many fields—cultural history, sociology, journalism, African American studies, anthropology, sociology, literature, political science, to name a few. Everyone offers a different lens, and as a result, our sense of the program’s impact is fragmentary.
Rewriting America seeks to integrate the varying perspectives and allow for fresh insights into how the FWP helped—and can continue to help—transform America.
Essays are invited on a wide range of topics related to the Federal Writers’ Project, including, but not limited to the FWP’s relationship to:
- Politics and the Roosevelt administration
- Documentary writing
- Folklore Studies
- Data collection
- Oral history
- American identity
- Race and ethnicity
- American literature
- Individual writers and/or subjects
- Archives and archival studies
Please submit a proposal (500 words) along with a brief bio to Sara Rutkowski firstname.lastname@example.org by September 10, 2019. Final essays should be 6000-7000 words. Interested contributors are encouraged to email with questions regarding their proposals.
Editor: Sara Rutkowski, Assistant Professor of English
City University of New York: Kingsborough Community College