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InfoGuides | Pepperdine Libraries

American Literature in Special Collections: 20th Century Literature

An overview highlighting 19th, 20th, and 21st American literature and poetry held in Pepperdine's Special Collections. Compilation includes first editions and copies with inscriptions from writers.

20th Century American Literature

Writers of the 20th century distinguished themselves from well-established literary patterns, structures, and norms through the use of fragmentation and alternative narrative forms. The postmodernism of this era “emphasized self-consciousness and pop art,” evident in strategies such as the stream-of-consciousness approach and biased or untrustworthy narrators (Pen and the Pad). New perspectives in literature also emerged throughout the 20th century, including those from urbanized and marginalized communities.

Featured below are a number of first and early editions written by 20th century writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Robert Russa Moton, George Washington Cable, Irving Bacheller, Mary Austin, Pearl S. Buck and Ida E. Lewis.

Ernest Hemingway

Men Without Women by Ernest Hemingway
Call Number: PS3515.E37 M4undefined
MLA Citation: Hemingway, Ernest. Men Without Women. Scribner, 1928.
Collection of fourteen short stories written by Ernest Hemingway, first published in 1927. These stories explore Hemingway’s frequently addressed themes of war, death, the male-female dynamic, honor, and virtue (Internet Archive 164).
Hemingway specialized in both fiction writing (novels and short stories) and journalism. Some of his other well-renowned works include novels A Farewell to Arms, a WWI story, and The Old Man and the Sea, the story of a Cuban fisherman named Santiago. The first of these echoes his own experiences working for the Red Cross in Italy during WWI. Hemingway’s style is marked by “short, declarative sentences” (Internet Archive 164) and his highlighting of the values of courage and piety through his stories’ protagonists.

Robert Russa Moton

What The Negro Thinks by Robert Russa Moton
Call Number: Wright E185.61 .M934
Moton, Robert Russa. What the Negro Thinks. 1st ed., Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1929.

First edition book by Robert Russa Moton; part of the Marion Thompson Wright Collection. In What The Negro Thinks, Moton dissolves the opinion that the white man knows and understands the black experience. He contends instead that in reality the black man knows the white man much better than the white man could ever know him. The book addresses black discrimination as it occurs in both public places and in the wider sphere of intellect and social structure. Moton offers a message of hope regarding the awareness of this undefineddiscrimination and movement toward change. This first edition, published in 1929, includes an inscription and signature from the author on the interior dust jacket.
Robert Russa Moton was an early 20th-century educator and writer. He served as the principal at Tuskegee Institute beginning in 1915 and promoted a conservative approach to racial dynamics, advocating for increased collaboration between races and for the betterment of the black community by virtue of education.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

All the Sad Young Men by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Call Number: PS3511.I9 A7 1926
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. All the Sad Young Men. C. Scribner's Sons, 1926.
First edition book featuring a series of short stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, author of The Great Gatsby, published one year prior. Nine stories constitute this collection: “The Rich Boy;” “Winter Dreams;” “The Baby Party;” “Absolution;” “Rags Martin-Jones and the Pr-nce of W-les;” “The Adjuster;” “Hot and Cold Blood;” “‘The Sensible Thing;’” and “Gretchen’s Forty Winks.”  Book was donated to the Sigma Tau Delta Collection of Rare Books and First Editions in Special Collections in April of 2015.
Despite the widespread popularity of his name today for the highly-acclaimed Gatsby, critics consider F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career a defeat, for the Depression suppressed appreciation and relevance of the Roaring Twenties, and he suffered many personal inhabitants to success (his wife faced mental instability while he simultaneously faced alcoholism and financial instability). Many of his short stories, like those included in All The Sad Young Men, are not well-known like Gatsby despite addressing similar matters. According to the F. Scott Fitzgerald Society, the primary themes highlighted in his works are “ambition and loss, discipline vs. self-indulgence, love and romance, and money and class.” His language has a certain elegance and a poetic undertone that distinguish it amongst other American authors. Regardless of his “success” at the time of his publications, it is evident that Fitzgerald has remained a powerful voice in the world of literary education and in the literary canon of classics.

John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Call Number: PS3537.T3234 O3 1937aundefined
Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men. Covici-Friede, 1937.

First edition, well-known novel by 20th century author John Steinbeck. Steinbeck grew up in Salinas Valley, California. This landscape inspired some of his works, whose “characters were often lonely, misunderstood farmers and ranchers” like those of the Valley (National Steinbeck Center). Of Mice and Men follows the story of two migrant workers, George and his friend Lennie who greatly dependent on his care and guidance. The novel explores the themes of human weakness and isolation, the complexity of friendship, and the unfeasible American Dream.

Link to Photo & More Information on this First Edition:

George Washington Cable

The Cavalier by George Washington Cable 
Call Number: PS1244 .C3 1901 
Cable, George Washington, et al. The Cavalier. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901.
Early edition novel written by George Washington Cable, late-19th century and early-20th century southern writer. Cable was born to a well-off, slave-owning family in New Orleans, Louisian in 1844. His experiences serving in the Confederate Army during the Civil War transformed his opinions on the South and slavery, and after the war he began his career as a writer. His stories highlight the New Orleans Creole experience and mixed-race society present in the south. Cable received criticism for numerous essays condemning racial injustice and slavery, and consequently his writings diverged toward different audiences and appeals— one being the call for change and justice in the “New South” and the other being romantic novels, “beginning with The Cavalier (1901),” which “attempt[ed] to retrieve an idyllic past, devoid of the problems of racism” (Richardson).

Irving Bacheller

The Story of a Passion by Irving Bacheller
Call Number: PS1054.B3 S7 1917
Bacheller, Irving. The Story of a Passion. Roycrofters, 1917. 
Early edition text written by Irving Bacheller, American writer and journalist prominent at the turn of the 20th century. Throughout his young adulthood, Bacheller worked in the journalism industry in New York City, serving as the editor of Daily Hotel Reporter, and as a later and the Dramatic Editor for the Brooklyn Daily Times. By the early 1900s, Bacheller had produced and sold several works of fiction and decided to pursue fiction writing exclusively. The Story of a Passion is one of  Bacheller’s fictional short stories featuring “three men from different social classes and the fate of a beloved Stradivarius” (Bauman Rare Books).

Mary Austin

Outland by Mary Austin
Call Number: PS3501.U8 O8 1919
Austin, Mary. Outland. Boni and Liveright, 1919.
Early edition novel written by Mary Hunter Austin, late-19th century and early-20th century American writer. Much of Austin’s work focuses on nature and the vast lands, plants, animals, and people of the places she encountered. Defying the gendered conventions of dress and lifestyle of the turn of the century, Austin traveled extensively throughout her lifetime, often on solo journeys. Much of her writing is set in the places she explored, particularly the American Southwest, and she addressed openly in her writing controversial issues of the time, such as Native American and Hispanic rights. Outland could be described as an early sci-fi novel, set in an Utopian community in southern California.

Pearl S. Buck

Kinfolk by Pearl S. Buck undefined
Call Number: Wright PS3503.U198 K5 1949 
Buck, Pearl S. Kinfolk. John Day Company, 1949.

Early edition novel written by early 20th-century novelist Pearl S. Buck. Kinfolk addresses multi-racial and multi-national culture and identity in addition to themes of Eastern vs. Western culture through the experiences of a Chinese family immigrating to the United States. This Special Collections edition contains a checkout card with names and dates of borrowers and a library pocket with an inscription from Marion Thompson Wright reading, “I enjoy sharing my books as I do my friends, asking only that you treat them well and see them safely home.” 

Pearl Sydenstricker Buck spent the majority of her adolescence and early adulthood in China, where her parents served as Presbyterian missionaries. Buck’s first published works were essays and stories, followed by novels later in her career. The Good Earth, Buck’s second novel, was the most famous of her works and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1935. She went on to be the first American female to win the Nobel Prize and published over seventy books throughout the course of her lifetime.

Ida E. Lewis

The Deep Ditch and the Narrow Pit by Ida E. Lewis

Call Number: Wright GN645 .L46
Lewis, Ida. The Deep Ditch and the Narrow Pit. Pavilion Press, 1964. 

Essay collection written by Ida E. Lewis, 20th century reporter and journalist from Malvern, Pennsylvania whose writing highlights the African American experience. After beginning her career as a reporter in New York, Lewis worked for a variety of different magazines and began publishing her own essay collections in books. The Deep Ditch and the Narrow Pit was the first of these. Lewis reached many new “firsts” for the female African American community, serving as the editor-in-chief of Essence magazine and establishing the African American magazine Encore in 1971. This edition of The Deep Ditch and the Narrow Pit contains an inscription from Lewis, reading: "To my very own personal painter with a friend's affection which can only grow, and grow-- I'l always remain, Ida."