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E-Seminars: E-Seminar Detail
 



E-Seminars in This Series

E-Seminar 1
The Crisis of Victorianism


E-Seminar 2
The Search for a Scientific Culture


E-Seminar 3
Pragmatism and Its Critics


E-Seminar 4
Ethnic Pluralism


E-Seminar 5
The Rise of Consumer Culture


E-Seminar 7
The Culture of "The People"


 
Intellectual and Cultural History of the United States, 1890–1945
E-Seminar 6, The Rise of Consumer Culture

Taught by: Casey Nelson Blake

Description
E-Seminar Description
In the years following the First World War, the United States experienced a resurgence of conservatism and intolerance.Yet the 1920s was also the decade when mass production, the installment plan, and the rise of advertising and the movies combined to forge a new culture of consumption that promoted self-gratification over self-denial, spending over saving. In this seminar, the sixth of the series Intellectual and Cultural History of the United States, 1890–1945, Professor Casey Nelson Blake describes the consumer culture of the 1920s and Middle America's ambivalent embrace of it, particularly as portrayed in Robert and Helen Lynd's sociological study Middletown. He also examines critiques of this new American ethos by such intellectuals as H. L. Mencken, Sinclair Lewis, T. S. Eliot, Margaret Mead, and Malcolm Cowley, and concludes by examining the fate of the Harlem Renaissance in the hands of mainstream consumerist culture. The Rise of Consumer Culture is presented through text and streaming video of Professor Blake's lecture and includes illustrations, readings, and biographies.

E-Seminar Length:3-5 hours
Start Date:Anytime
Credits:Not-for-Credit
Prerequisites:None
Moderator:None
Columbia Students, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni:FREE
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E-Seminar Objectives | Outline | Instructor's Background | Recommended Reading | Technical Requirements

E-Seminar Objectives
•   Learn about the new nativism and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States in the years after the First World War.

•   Consider the role played by advertising in transforming the United States into a consumerist society.

•   Learn about the disillusionment of postwar intellectuals, from both the right and the left of the political spectrum, and about their critiques of consumerism and mass culture.

•   Consider how the popular film The Jazz Singer comments on cultural assimilation and the uses of African American culture in the 1920s.

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Outline
1. Introduction
2. The Postwar Ethos
     Conservatism and Intolerance
     The New Economy
     Intellectual Disillusionment
     Satirizing Conformity
3. Portrait of Middle America
     The Lynds and Middletown
     From Work to Leisure
     Cars and the New Culture
     Cultural Passivity
     Uniformity and Fragmentation
     Gains and Losses
4. The Search for Alternatives
     Advocates of Asceticism
     Conservative Modernism
     Studying Other Cultures
     Bohemians and Expatriates
5. The Harlem Renaissance
     Capital of Black America
     The Costs of White Patronage
     The Jazz Singer
6. Conclusion

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Instructor's Background
Instructor's Background
A native New Yorker, Casey Nelson Blake is Professor of History and Director of the American Studies program at Columbia University. He has also taught at Reed College, Indiana University, the University of Rome, and Washington University in St. Louis. Blake is the author of many works on U.S. intellectual and cultural history, including Beloved Community: The Cultural Criticism of Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, and Lewis Mumford. In addition to his scholarly publications, Blake has published essays and criticism in the American Scholar, Commonweal, Dissent, the Nation, Tikkun, and other journals of opinion. He is currently writing a book on public art and civic culture in the United States.

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Recommended Reading
Dumenil, Lynn. The Modern Temper: American Culture and Society in the 1920s. New York: Hill and Wang, 1995.

Lears, T. J. Jackson. Fables of Abundance: A Cultural History of Advertising in America. New York: Basic Books, 1994.

Lewis, David Levering. When Harlem Was in Vogue. New York: Knopf, 1981; Penguin, 1997.

Marchand, Roland. Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920–1940. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Rogin, Michael Paul. Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

Rosenberg, Rosalind. Beyond Separate Spheres: The Intellectual Roots of Modern Feminism. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982.


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Technical Requirements
You will need to use a computer with Internet access to complete this course. We recommend the following minimum configurations:

IBM-COMPATIBLE PC
Windows 95, 98, 2000, XP, or NT
64 MB of RAM (128 or more recommended)
Monitor: 800x600 resolution recommended
Connection: Internet service and 56K modem minimum
Browser: Internet Explorer 4 or above (Internet Explorer 5 strongly recommended) or Netscape 4.7 or above
Sound Card (if you can hear audio you have a sound card)
Plug-ins: RealPlayer 7 or later; Flash Player 5 or later; Acrobat Reader 5 or later
(all plug-ins are free)

MACINTOSH
MAC OS 8.6 or higher
64 MB of RAM (128 or more recommended)
Monitor: 800x600 resolution recommended
Connection: Internet service and 56K modem minimum
Browser: Internet Explorer 5 or above or Netscape 4.7 or above
Sound Card (if you can hear audio you have a sound card)
Plug-ins: RealPlayer 7 or later; Flash Player 5 or later; Acrobat Reader 5 or later
(all plug-ins are free)

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