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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Fall 2009

E 344L • American Literature, Film and Culture Between the World Wars

Unique Days Time Location Instructor

Kornhaber, Donna

Course Description

From the Roaring Twenties to the Great Depression, the period in the United States between the First and Second World Wars was one of the most dynamic and turbulent of the twentieth century—as well as one of the most artistically influential. In this course, we will take a broad look at some of the major artistic figures and products of the age in the areas of literature, film, drama, and other avenues of popular culture like animation. Reading these works in light of the political and social dynamics of the era, we will investigate the various ways in which works in each medium celebrate, chronicle, and challenge both the prosperity of the immediate post-war years and the turmoil of the depression decade that followed. Viewing them in both an artistic and a social context, we will study the rise of modernism in American literature and drama alongside and in light of the invention of a new filmic language in the pioneering use of cinematography, editing, and sound that marked the cinema of this period. Taken in total, we will aim to better understand the vibrant artistic experimentation and interchange that marked this unique epoch in American life. Major topics to be considered include the legacy of the First World War, the changing place of women, economic prosperity and economic ruin, mechanization and industrialization, political activism and ideology, and concepts of the modern.

Grading Policy

Attendance and participation, 15%; two short essays (5 pages each), 25%+25%; one eight-page essay, 35%


Fiction: Willa Cather, My Antonia; F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby; Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises; William Faulkner, As I Lay Dying; Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts. Drama: Elmer Rice, The Adding Machine; Eugene O'Neill, Strange Interlude; Sophie Treadwell, Machinal; George S. Kaufman, Dinner at Eight; Clifford Odets, Waiting for Lefty; Thornton Wilder, The Skin of Our Teeth. Film: F.W. Murnau, Sunrise; William Wellman, The Public Enemy; Charlie Chaplin, City Lights; Busby Berkeley, 42nd Street; Raoul Walsh, The Roaring Twenties; Orson Welles, The Magnificent Ambersons


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