GLS 592: America in the Jazz Age
Instructor: Anthony James
The 1920s witnessed incredible social upheaval and conflict amid a society of expanding prosperity and progress. As America turned from the horrors of World War I, its citizens reveled in the unprecedented material abundance being afforded by the fulfillment of industrial capacity, urban growth and technological advancement. Similarly, long-held religious, moral and sexual conventions were challenged and debated in crises that liberated and threatened large numbers of people. America in the 1920s was really two worlds at once; rural, but increasingly urban; Victorian in its values and beliefs, but willing to experiment with new behaviors and trends; gifted by the Harlem Renaissance, but enthralled by the Ku Klux Klan. This course will use works of history and literature to explore some of the tensions within this remarkable decade, including the theme of modernism, growth in business, the development of mass culture, new roles for men and women, and the tenacity of traditionalism.
The course will be structured around reading core texts (some possibilities are included below) and supplemented by journal articles available on J-STOR. Students will write 7-8 essays (2-3 pages) and 3-4 short briefs (1-2 paragraphs) in response to readings, and will be responsible for conducting at least one discussion on a reading’s supplemental articles. One extended paper will be used to explore an area of research interest in the 1920s, or to evaluate major themes and arguments of the period.
Boyle, Kevin. Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age. (National Book Award Winner)
Crunden, Robert. Body and Soul: The Making of American Modernism.
Duncombe, Stephen. The Bobbed Haired Bandit: A True Story of Crime and Celebrity in 1920s New York.
Dumenil, Lynn. The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s.
Larsen, Nella. Passing.
Larson, Edmund. Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate over Science and Religion. (Pulitzer Prize in History)
Leuchtenburg, William. The Perils of Prosperity, 1914-1932.
Image provided courtesy of http://thejazzage.com/
Last Update:February 10, 2008