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The Critic

In 1908, Floyd Dell moved to Chicago where he got a job with The Chicago Evening Post and by 1911 was the editor of its Friday Literary Review, a nationally distributed weekly supplement that helped enhance the reputation the Chicago Literary Renaissance of the period from about 1900 to 1925 by bringing to the attention of the reading public such leading writers as Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Edgar Lee Masters, and Carl Sandburg—realistically depicted the contemporary urban environment in the increasingly industrialized and materialistic American society and the failure of the promise that hard work would automatically bring material and spiritual rewards. During his five years at the Friday Literary Review, Dell critiqued the writing of Jack London, H.G. Wells, Tom Paine, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Friedrich Nietzsche, Mark Twin, G.K. Chesterton, Bernard Shaw, William Blake, Theodore Dreiser, George Moore, Ellen Key, William Morris, Jane Addams, Anatole France, Ellen Glasgow, O’Henry, Emma Goldman and hundreds of others.

In his autobiography, Homecoming, Dell wrote: “The “Friday Literary Review” was giving expression to a growing youthful body of American literary taste, which had nourished itself on the best European literature and had civilized modern standards. The growing body of taste had hitherto been voiceless, and was supposed not to exist. Literary criticism was almost entirely either academic or mere puffery; to be alive and to have knowledge of literature was a combination almost unknown; to bring social ideas to bear upon aesthetic products was something very new indeed . . . The Friday Literary Review, a pioneer in modern civilized criticism in America, gave encouragement to this taste, helped to formulate it.”

According to R. Craig Sautter, “In the FLR, Dell regularly examined origins and developments of the socialist movement in America and Europe. He also probed and promoted the emerging international women’s movement and sought to examine psychological implications of changing sexual relations on characters and situations in the literature and society. . . . His reviews demanded a literature inherently linked with freedom in living and in writing. Indeed, his reviews still convey a penetrating force and stylistic grace, as well as historical insight, that endures nearly a century later.”