The United States emerged from World War I as the world’s richest and most powerful nation, but Americans found this no guarantee of individual happiness, social peace, economic security, or political stability. This cluster examines the sources of Americans’ soaring hopes and profound discontents; how literature expressed the yearnings and disappointments of intellectuals, African Americans, immigrants, and other groups; and how philosophers sought meaning in an age when nothing in life or logic seemed assured. Faculty: Dan Cohen, Katherine Stubbs, Rob Weisbrot.
How did American literature respond to the dramatic social and cultural transformations that shook the United States after the devastating Great War? Moving from the roaring twenties through the Depression, we will study texts that emerged from the Lost Generation and the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the work of immigrant and working-class writers. Students will engage in a series of writing-intensive exercises and workshops, producing and revising four essays over the course of the semester. Four credit hours. L, W1. Stubbs.
Why did racial, religious, cultural, and regional tensions tear at American society in the years after World War, a time of soaring production, consumption, and living standards? Why did the nation’s vaunted prosperity give way in 1929 to the greatest economic collapse in American history? How did people cope with hard times over the next decade? Students will analyze contemporary sources to answer these questions and, more broadly, to explore how responses to conflict and crisis shaped American values, culture, and politics. Four credit hours. H. Weisbrot.
The quest for certainty had defined Modern Philosophy since Descartes, but the early 20th century put too many roadblocks in the way: The Great War upended the old political order; Relativity and Quantum Theory did the same for our notions of space and time; and Gödel proved that even mathematics was not safe. We will focus on the emergence of Logical Positivism and American Pragmatism as the major philosophical responses to these upheavals in thought. Four credit hours. S. Cohen.