An American avant-garde: Grove Press, 1951--1986

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Harvey M. Teres


Avant-garde, Grove Press, Obscenity law, Decensorship

Subject Categories

American Literature | American Popular Culture | Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance


This dissertation focuses on the cultural production of texts by Grove Press from the 1951 to 1986, particularly the decensorship of a number of books which were banned from sale previous to their publication in the 1960s. Grove's productions of books like Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover (1959) and Miller's Tropic of Cancer (1961) invested these texts with new valences, new social meanings that aligned them with an U.S. culture of dissent that was forming at this time. This alignment of controversial and provocative literature with the new social movements of the 1960s produced an aesthetic and a vocabulary that contributed to the production of new social impulses in the postwar United States.

I argue that Grove Press's cultural productions in the 1960s functioned in a manner both influenced by and reminiscent of the avant-garde movements of the early 20th century. Grove's cultural provocations, in print and in court, advocated change in the social order itself, changes to be generated by the literature it published. Like its progenitors, this particular avant-garde movement stopped short of breaking down the barriers between art and life. While Grove Press both contributed to and helped to set the aesthetic terms for the 1960s counterculture in the United States, it was unable to meet the challenges that this new cultural moment presented, especially in terms of its representations of women.


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