A faculty member in the University of Iowa Department of English has published a book that argues that state and state-affiliated cultural diplomacy contributed to the making of post-war U.S. literature.
In Telling America's Story to the World: Literature, Internationalism, Cultural Diplomacy, Harilaos Stecopoulos contends that the state mainly sent authors like Ralph Ellison, Robert Frost, William Faulkner, Langston Hughes, and Maxine Hong Kingston overseas not just to demonstrate the achievements of U.S. civilization, but also to broadcast an American commitment to international cross-cultural connection. Those writers-cum-ambassadors may not have helped the state achieve its propaganda goals—and it rarely proved the case—but they did find the opportunity to ponder the international meanings and possibilities of U.S. literature. For many of those figures, courting foreign publics inspired a re-evaluation of the scope and form of their own literary projects.
Stecopoulos is an associate professor of English at Iowa.