Following World War II, Americans entertained a far more international political, cultural, and intellectual awareness as well as a greater fascination with development, progress, and modernity than ever before. In a revisionist account that takes "development" as its main theme, Guy Reynolds charts the responses of novelists, travel writers, and literary intellectuals to the nation's deepening engagement in world affairs. Reynolds remaps recent literary history featuring authors as diverse as James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, Paul Bowles, Pearl Buck, W. E. B. Du Bois, Ernest Hemingway, Peter Matthiessen, Richard Powers, Susan Sontag, and Richard Wright. Apostles of Modernity offers an original, in-depth study of the literary manifestations of this period of globalism in novels, memoirs, essays, reportage, and political commentary. Through close readings of texts Reynolds revisits and reassesses U.S. internationalism, showing how writers and intellectuals engaged with a cluster of topics: decolonization, the rise of the Third World, Islamic difference, the end of European empires, China's enduring significance, and transatlantic and cosmopolitan identities.
Throughout, the ideals of the United States as "apostle of modernity" and sponsor of "development" feature as central to American letters in the decades after World War II. A major contribution to the study of literary internationalism, Apostles of Modernity establishes new paradigms for understanding America's place in the world and the world's place in America.