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ENGLISH 144D: American Arts & The Great Depression (AMSTUD 144D)

American culture in the 1930s and 40s is easy to dismiss. It can seem too parochial, too patriotic, too escapist. But looking closer we find 'bold and persistent experimentation' in the face of inequality and unrest. How does a photograph respond to want? A novel produce community? A musical call for revolution? In this course we'll consider a diverse cast of objects and artists: phototexts by James Agee and Walker Evans, Richard Wright, and Dorothea Lange and Paul Taylor; the films of Busby Berkeley, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Capra, Fred Astaire, and Pere Lorenz; paintings by Grant Wood, Grandma Moses, and Diego Rivera; and the fiction of Tillie Olsen and Nathanael West. We'll explore the Federal Arts Projects - which put thousands to work - describing America to Americans in the form of government-funded plays, symphonies, and guidebooks, and were fiercely contested by conservative critics of the New Deal - and examine their continuing legacy. Students will reflect on primary and secondary readings and digital archives in a series of short papers.
Terms: Sum | Units: 3-5 | UG Reqs: WAY-A-II
Instructors: Bolten, R. (PI)
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