American Modern 1900-1950
This course will investigate the major movements in modernism in America between 1900 and 1950. The course will focus chiefly on movements in theatre, art, music, in particular jazz, with some attention given to modern forms in poetry, architecture, and dance. Subject areas to be covered in early 20th Century America include the founding of a modern American theatre through the work of the Provincetown Players and the drama of Eugene O’Neil; the response to the Armory Show in 1913 and the creation of an authentically modern American painting and sculpture; and the evolution of jazz in composition and performance. The post-World War II period will focus on the rise of off-Broadway theatre and the work of writers such as Edward Albee, John Guare, and LeRoi Jones; the establishment of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism; the rise of the Beat culture in reaction to Cold War politics and postwar conformist culture. This course will also examine the intellectual, political, and cultural foundations of modernism in America, and place the work of artists and writers in the context of the “Greenwich Village idea,” which set an ideal of communal solidarity and radical politics in opposition to the patriarchal Victorian values of traditional American middle-class culture and nationalist politics.