American Culture in the 1930s

American Culture in the 1930s

American Culture in the 1930s

American Culture in the 1930s

Synopsis

This book provides an insightful overview of the major cultural forms of 1930s America: literature and drama, music and radio, film and photography, art and design, and a chapter on the role of the federal government in the development of the arts. The intellectual context of 1930s American culture is a strong feature, whilst case studies of influential texts and practitioners of the decade - from War of the Worlds to The Grapes of Wrath and from Edward Hopper to the Rockefeller Centre - help to explain the cultural impulses of radicalism, nationalism and escapism that characterize the United States in the 1930s. Key Features:
• 3 case studies per chapter featuring key texts, genres, writers and artists
• Chronology of 1930s American Culture
• Bibliographies for each chapter
• 22 black and white illustrations

Excerpt

With the Wall Street Crash in late October 1929 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, most accounts of American history present 'the thirties' as a decade with ready-made 'bookends': two shocking events which underscore the unremittingly traumatic nature of the intervening years. As a financial event, the Crash serves as a symbolic watershed, ending the prosperity of the 'Roaring Twenties' and putting economic history at the very centre of ensuing narratives (even if the stock market collapse did not cause the Depression itself). On this account Pearl Harbor marks the resolution of the crisis, in the sense that the war economy restored prosperity to the United States. It also denotes a new age of international engagement after a decade focused on domestic problems, and the end of a period of social reform as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt went from being 'Dr New Deal' to 'Dr Win-the-War'. Like any decade, of course, the very notion of 'the thirties' is a post facto construct, an abstraction of more symbolic freight and critical convenience than a reflection of genuine historical experience. The effort to categorize that decade with a central theme is likewise only ever an effort to impose an 'orienting sense of cohesion and unity' on the 'inconsistencies, tensions and cacophony of voices' that constitute the complexity of any given moment in time. Yet despite awareness of how simplistic and problematic the construct is, the fundamental narrative of the United States in the 1930s remains that of the Great Depression.

Never before had Americans encountered such a widespread economic failure. Of course, the Depression did not become 'Great' until 1931 or so; what began in the summer of 1929 was at first regarded as an ordinary recession. Unemployment may have risen to 4.3 million by 1930, but this still seemed less significant than the previous recession of 1921 when the jobless had numbered 4.9 million and gross . . .

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