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Looking Up to Sinclair Lewis: Ayn Rand's Admiration for It Can't Happen Here

Shoshana Milgram

Presented at: OCON 2008

Date: Jun 28, 2008

Ayn Rand, who rarely praised contemporary literature, made an exception for It Can't Happen Here(1935). In it, vicious ideas—allied with physical force—threaten American freedom: "the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever." After receiving an inscribed copy, she wrote to the author: she worshipped him, she said, as a hero. She cherished the chance, at the dawn of her career, to look up to Sinclair Lewis.

Dr. Milgram focuses on Ayn Rand's respect for the book, along with its colorful history: Lewis's decision to write an anti-totalitarian novel (after his wife, a crusading journalist, interviewed Hitler); the nationwide production of the stage adaptation (opening simultaneously in twenty-two cities); and the suppression of the screen adaptation (deemed too controversial for release).

(There is no required reading. A list of suggested readings will be provided.)

Ayn Randliterature

Parts: 4

Handout: none