English C136

Topics in American Studies: The Great Exhaling: American History, Culture, and Politics, 1946-1952

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
2 Spring 2014 Moran, Kathleen and Marcus, Greil
TTh 3:30-5 + disc. sec. 201: W 2-3; disc. sec. 202: W 3-4; disc. sec. 203: Thurs. 10-11; disc. sec. 204: Thurs. 11-12 2 LeConte

Book List

McLuhan, M.: Mechanical Bride; Roth, P.: I Married a Communist; Salinger, J. D. : Catcher in the Rye


1948 was the year that America, after the Great Depression, after the Second World War, after sixteen years of the all but revolutionary experiment in national government of the New Deal and even in the face of a Red Scare that would dominate the next decade let out its breath. Finally, that great exhaling said, we can go back to real life, but what was "real life?" Centering on 1948, but moving a few years back and a few years forward, this class will explore the sometimes instantly celebrated, sometimes all but subterranean experiments in American culture that tried to raise and answer that question. The artists who emerged to tell the national story were male and female, black and white, from the west, the east, the south, and everywhere in between. They included Tennessee Williams of Mississippi and Marlon Brando of Nebraska with A Streetcar Named Desire; Jackson Pollock of Wyoming with abstract paintings so big they seemed like visionary maps of the country itself, a country where anything could happen; Miles Davis of St. Louis, with the spare, quiet walk down noir streets of the music that would come to be known as "The Birth of the Cool"; the cross-country explorations of Jack Kerouac of Massachusetts, Neal Cassady of Colorado, and Allen Ginsberg of Newark, New Jersey, following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, certain that the real America remained to be discovered; the grind-house, B-movie spread of noir, with the faces of Barbara Stanwyck of Brooklyn and Gloria Grahame of Los Angeles spreading the suspicion that in America nothing was as it seemed and rules and morals were for fools; and scores, even hundreds more suddenly rushing down the same blind alleys and open roads. This course will try to follow the traces of this explosion as well as contextualize the America that of was being born--a place engaged in a new "cold" war, turning to new forms of mass media, experiencing a new and unprecedented consumerist ethos, and inventing new forms of suburban cultural life.

This class is cross-listed with American Studies C111E section 2.

Discussion Sections

201 No instructor assigned yet.
W 2-3 81 Evans
202 No instructor assigned yet.
W 3-4 81 Evans
203 No instructor assigned yet.
Thurs. 10-11 385 LeConte
204 No instructor assigned yet.
Thurs. 11-12 5 Evans

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