May 25

Literature and Culture of the 1930s | May 25 - Jun 29 (6 Week Course)

Laura Richardson

In 1929, the U.S. stock market experienced the most devastating crash in its history, beginning a long depression that would continue until the American entry into World War II in 1941. In contrast to the “roaring” jubilancy and widespread economic prosperity of the 1920s, the 1930s was a decade of poverty and struggle. American culture, however, flourished both because and in spite of the Great Depression. The more cosmopolitan thematics of 1920s art transformed into a prevailing interest in American regionalism and agrarian life. Art began to take more inspiration from the average, struggling American, ushering in an age of Social Realism that infused aesthetics with political statement. Led by F.D.R., the government supported writers and visual artists. Big band swing took over from hot jazz, and dancing styles increased in athleticism. “Talkies” became the norm, and 1939 is still considered one of the greatest years in film due to the releases of The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind. In this course, we’ll study the literature, history, music, and art of the vibrant but complex 1930s with an eye for how this decade helped define contemporary American (and a little British) culture.

This is an interactive, discussion-based course. In the first week, we will be discussing John Ford’s 1940 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. We’ll be reading excerpts from the novel, which I will provide for you in a pdf. You may wish to read the novel before our course begins, however, this is not necessary to participate in our discussions. Please watch Ford’s film before the first class—it is available to rent from Amazon, YouTube, etc. Please also purchase Charlie Chaplin’s film City Lights (free on HBO Max), Zora Neale Hurston’s Moses, Man of the Mountain and Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm. All other materials will be provided.

This class will be dual delivery: both in person at WIH and simulcast Zoom meetings.

Six Week Course Schedule:
Wednesday, May 18 | 1:30 PM
Recap of the Roaring 20s; overview of 1930s; The Grapes of Wrath
The Stock Market Crash of 1929
Introduction to the Dust Bowl

Wednesday, May 25 | 1:30 PM
Art and the New Deal; 1930s film
The WPA Federal Art Project
Dorothea Lange: select photography
American Regionalism
Georgia O’Keefe
Charlie Chaplin, City Lights

Wednesday, Jun 01 | 1:30 PM
Black Americans in the 1930s
Zora Neale Hurston, Moses, Man of the Mountain

Wednesday, Jun 08 | 1:30 PM
Short Stories
F. Scott Fitzgerald, “Babylon Revisited”
Ernest Hemingway, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro"

Wednesday, Jun 15 | 1:30 PM
A Trip Abroad (heavy reading week)
Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm
Rebecca West, “The Salt of the Earth”

Wednesday, Jun 22 | 1:30 PM
Poetry and Big Band Swing:
T. S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton”
Hart Crane, “The Bridge” (excerpts)
Poems by:
Langston Hughes
Wallace Stevens
Edna St. Vincent Millay
E. E. Cummings
Countee Cullen
Marianne Moore
Big Band Swing and 1930s Hits:
Count Basie
Duke Ellington
Fletcher Henderson
Glenn Miller
Bing Crosby
Ella Fitzgerald
Billie Holiday



Class Tuition

33 in stock

Price is per student. Class tuition is non-refundable.