Today's New York City first took shape in the 1920s. Known as “The Roaring Twenties” or “The Jazz Age,” the decade between the end of
World War I and the Stock Market Crash witnessed the dizzying birth of modern mass communication; mass consumer culture and advertising;
talking pictures (AKA movies); Jazz and electric sound recording; women’s suffrage, flappers, “the New Woman”; “the New Negro” and the
Harlem Renaissance; affordable automobiles; passenger air travel; skyscrapers... Indeed, almost every feature of the modern city that we
take for granted today first came to frenetic fruition in the 1920s. Why? What caused this sudden explosion of cultural production? How can
we grasp the cultural history of so dynamic an era? How did those who lived through the era understand (and reflect) the changes they
experienced? Finally, how does their experience influence the way we see the city (and modern life) today? To begin to answer these questions, we will read (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jean Toomer, Dorothy Parker, among others); view (Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford); and listen (Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, the Gershwins, Fats Waller). Each student will select a research focus (in literature, music, art, architecture, consumer culture, gender or race relations, etc.) and develop a semester-long project exploring a specific dimension of the era in depth.