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Walker Evans, James Agee
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a nonfiction exploration in words and photographs of the lives of tenant farming families in Alabama. The book began as an assignment for Fortune magazine with text by American writer James Agee and 61 photographs taken by American photographer Walker Evans. Agee and Evans traveled to Alabama in 1936 during the global period of economic downturn known as the Great Depression. They lived with tenant farming families for six weeks, observing and documenting their lives. After Fortune decided not to publish the article, Agee expanded it into a book. When first published in 1941, the book sold poorly, but in 1960 it was reissued to great acclaim. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men influenced the literary movement of the 1960s and 70s known as New Journalism. New Journalism blended traditional journalism and nonfiction with storytelling techniques, as Agee does in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.
Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is written in the first person when James Agee writes about himself and the third person when he discusses other people and things.
The title Let Us Now Praise Famous Men comes from Chapter 44, verse 1 of the Wisdom of Sirach, a book of ethical teachings and one of the books of biblical apocrypha. The books of the apocrypha are a collection of religious writings related to the Bible but not usually included in it. There is situational irony in James Agee's use of the verse as a title, because his book actually praises the lives of ordinary poor people. However, this is also accounted for in Sirach 44, which includes praise for those "which have no memorial." Let Us Now Praise Famous Men is a kind of memorial to the forgotten poor.
This study guide for Walker Evans, James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.