AMS 390 • End of American Innocence, 1900-20
2:00 PM-5:00 PM
Forty years ago Berkeley professor Henry May wrote The End of American Innocence: A Study of the First Years of Our Times in which he famously declared that the years before World War I were a time "in which the old ways were dying but not yet dead, and the new ways were being born but were not yet fully alive." Today in a world where the United States ranks only behind Turkey among western (?) nations in their disbelief of evolution, we may be skeptical about the impending death of these old customs. But certainly new ways of behavior and belief did emerge at the turn of the century precipitating attempts by Americans of all races, ethnicities, genders, social classes, and political beliefs to try and stake out ground for their inclusion in this new conception of Americanness.
In the last decade there has been an exciting new movement in American Studies, American history, and cultural studies to rethink what was going on in these first two decades of the twentieth century. Following several decades in which the reigning paradigm was a largely fruitless attempt to define the remarkably vague terms of Progressivism and Progressives, the new approach focuses on determining an American identity during a time in which all the conventional characteristics of a traditional identity seemed to be missing. How does one have a nation without a single nationality? How can one define oneself against the foreign other when she can and does become one of you? How can one use cultural institutions such as literature, film, and social philosophy to define this identity? What role does newly emerged corporate America play in this transition? This period is, as a historian recently put it, "where it all begins" for the 20th century, and it is an exciting period of research today.
Most but not all of the following books will be assigned Alfred Brophy Reconstructing the Dreamland: The Tulsa Riot of 1921 Paula Marantz Cohen Silent Film: The Triumph of the American Myth Margaret Finnegan Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture and Votes for Women Stephen Hahn A Nation under Our Feet: Black Political Struggles in the Rural South from Slavery to the Great Migration Jonathan Hansen The Lost Promise: Debating American Identity 1890-1920 Matthew Frye Jacobson Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad Michael Kazin A Godly Hero: The Life of William Jennings Bryan Kathy Peis Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York Ruth Rosen The Lost Sisterhood: Prostitution in America 1900-1918 Christine Stansell American Moderns: Bohemian New York and the Creation of a New Century Alan Trachtenberg Shades of Hiawatha: Staging Indians, Making Americans, 1880-1930 Oliver Zunz Making America Corporate 1870-1920