American Literature/Art

The Jazz Singer (1927)

The first feature-length “talkie” which showed the end of silent movies. Al Jolson, an immigrant Jew, starred in the movie, performing in the then popular blackface style.

Highlighted the concerns of urban immigrants, as well as ironically ignoring the concerns of actual African Americans who were struggling through Jim Crow segregation laws at this time.

H.L. Menken (1920s)

The idol of many authors, H.L. Menken was dubbed the “Bad Boy of Baltimore” because of his sharp wit. In American Mercury, he attacked issues like marriage, patriotism, prohibition, and democracy.

Showed the intense feeling disenchantment with traditional values and literary standards, as well as looking for new codes of morals and forms of expression.

F. Scott Fitzgerald and This Side of Paradise and The Great Gatsby (1920)

A Princeton graduate who became famous overnight when he published his first novel, which became a kind of bible for the young

Showed the problems of the American ideal of the self-made man. Also his novels explored the pitfalls of social striving.

Ernest Hemingway and The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms (1926 and 1929)

Involved in the first World War, Hemingway was among the writers most affected by the war. He responded by developing a word-sparing style and appeal to patriotism in his two most famous works.

Showed the disillusionment that many expatriates to Europe and showed the side of a man returning from the first World War, and the effects that total war had on the soldier.

Ezra Pound (1920s)

An Idaho native who was characterized as erratic rejected the U.S. for Europe.

Wrote innovative poetry that stressed clarity and precision of language.

Shaped the work of his contemporaries as well as influenceing the American public towards the modernist movements and attempted to dissuade Americans from the Allied cause in WWII.

Jacob Lawerence (1940-1941)

Artist Jacob Lawerence depicted the migration of southern blacks to the North during and after World War Two in a series of paintings.

Documented the movement of a vast people group as well as an intense cultural change in the makeup of northern cities.

Toyo Miyatake (1895-1979)

An acclaimed Japanese American photographer with his own studio in Los Angeles before he and his family were evacuated to the Manzanar internment camp.

His photos are the only photographic records of daily camp life taken by and internee. He allowed the American public to see after the war what their suspicion and racism had done to the Japanese-American community.

Joseph Heller Catch-22 (1961)

This author dealt with the improbable antics and anguish of American airmen in the wartime Mediterranean.

Described as a savage satire, this novel made Americans hurt while they laughed, showing the deep trend for less realistic portrayal of situations that American troops might have seen in the war.

Kurt Vonnegut andSlaughterhouse Five (1964)

Wrote about World War Two in increasingly fantastic and even psychedelic prose, was praised as impenetrably inventive prose.

Showed the disillusionment that the American public felt with reality, and so served to create imaginative writing in the place of more realistic prose.

Rachel Carson and Silent Spring(1962)

The mother of the modern conservation movement because of the impact of her book, which raised awareness about the dangers of pesticides.

Helped along the environmentalist cause, as well as spurring millions of environmentalists to celebrate the first Earth Day and encourage the passage of environmentally friendly legislature.