Our reason for putting this anthology together is that we thought it long overdue to challenge the persistent aftennyth of the thirties as a homogeneous anti-modernist decade. Outdated cultural maps of the time sustain a damagingly restricted canon centred on a narrow genealogy of polarised relations between aesthetics and politics, or between difficulty and accessibility, tex.tuality and content. According to this tradition, let us say, Auden fathers out of Socialist Realism a prodigal generation whose lasting literary value resides in subsequently recognising the disastrous inadvisability of their own attempts to mix writing and 'commitment', and in disowning their immature output. Against this distortive narrative, this book seeks to configure an alternative history - that, at least in terms of the avant-garde aspect of their culture, the thirties were more accurately a troubled but symptomatic transitional phase between modernist and postmodernist writing, art and politics, a complex mutation that defined itself within, and in some ways against, the wider background of the popular writing and mass culture of the time. Following on from this, it is vital to locate any reassessment of this kind within a suitably broad and contested cultural context.