Urbanization And Isolation In Post WW1 America (2009)
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Urbanization And Isolation In Post WW1 America (2009)

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Mr. Collins' Honors American Literature Final exam 2009

Mr. Collins' Honors American Literature Final exam 2009

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Urbanization And Isolation In Post WW1 America (2009) Urbanization And Isolation In Post WW1 America (2009) Presentation Transcript

  • Urbanization and Isolation in post-WWI America Honors American Literature Final Exam
  • Instructions
    • This PowerPoint presentation includes
      • Pictures
      • Documents
      • Articles
    • some of which you have not seen before, or at least we haven’t studied in detail
  • Instructions, continued
    • In addition to using PowerPoint to look at the pictures and follow the information, you will need to use MS Word or Adobe Acrobat Reader to read the articles. (You can also print them out, if you wish.)
    • You can read the articles on the computer screen when prompted by clicking on the appropriate link below.
  • O.K. – Let’s begin
  • Impact of Urbanization
    • Recall that we discussed the impact of the Industrial Revolution on America at the end of the 19 th century
    • We said that the most important transition was the shift from an agrarian to an urban culture
    • Doing so changed the nature of work, time, family and social relationships.
      • City employees worked in shifts, rather than from sunup to sundown. This meant that (in the summer) they had “leisure time.
      • Because of this and because people rented apartments by the month rather than living on the family farm. Consequently, they developed a “sense of the temporary.”
      • This, plus the ready availability of leisure/entertainment led to “dating” (a temporary kind of social relationship) and an attraction to changing fashions.
  • And in this genre painting, “Farmers Nooning” by William Sydney Mount (1836) we see something more. Though mostly an idyllic view, it is also paternalistic : note that the white men lounge in the shade , while the black man sleeps in the sun , imputing a kind of laziness to the African-American which the other men tolerate with quiet amusement. One of the men reads, indicating his “intellectual superiority.” And the child takes the opportunity to make the black man an object of his humor, even ridicule. Benign, perhaps, and intended to be bucolic (simple and folksy) but the lines are clearly drawn. NOTE: this slide has been kept in by request; you do not have to include it in your analysis unless you wish.
  • Photography’s Impact
    • Technology was one of the products of urbanization. The availability of newfangled objects attracted people to the cities
    • But, along with their personal experience of war, the camera played a major role in “de-Romanticizing” America…
    • Before the Civil War and the preponderance of battlefield photographs, the view of war was colored by the Romantic images of the Revolutionary War and other conflicts of the 18 th century.
    Benjamin West “Death of General Wolfe”
  • John Trumbull, “Battle of Bunker’s Hill”
  • Photograph of dead Confederate soldier at Spotsylvania Courthouse, 1863 (by Matthew Brady) Instead, they saw this…
  • Photograph of dead Confederate soldier at Petersburg, 1865 (by Matthew Brady) and this…
    • And, since technology is associated more closely with urban areas the products of Industrialization , simply by existing , made cities attractive. To sum up, one such product – the camera – also brought the horrors of war to those who might otherwise not have witnessed it first-hand (and in doing so, replaced the Romantic version of war depicted in the paintings of Trumbull and West).
  • Photographs like the one above surely must have dispelled any belief in the bloodless death of General Wolfe. The death of General Wolfe in Benjamin West’s painting is more reminiscent of a scene from “Camille” than a scene from war. (Note: “Camille” was a play written in the 1840’s about a courtesan – i.e., high-priced prostitute -- dying of tuberculosis. The photo at right is from a 1936 film based on the play.)
    • O.K. – using Word , open and read the story “Horseman.”
    This is a short story by Ambrose Bierce – the full title is “Horseman in the Sky” (Bierce also wrote “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”).
    • Bierce’s story clearly underscores the beginning of a shift in American attitude: from Romanticism to Realism…and yet, oddly enough, it wasn’t a particularly morbid era.
    • There are two competing and contradictory attitudes that run through America in the post-Civil War era: a sense of loss and a sense of exuberance . The former occurred as Americans learned the bitter lessons of a war in which brother fought brother and father fought son. The latter occurred as America grew into an Industrial giant.
    • As Richard Sears and his Catalog showed, America was a land where anything is possible, and where everything is available .
    • Open and read the two documents: “The Development of Mail Order America” and “Growth and Change in America” (note: in the second document, you only need to read the passages in blue .)
    • Though urban life had its advantages, clearly there were many problems and evils associated with city life: overcrowding, poverty, filth, disease, etc. Life was difficult if you didn’t “make it big.”
    • But even those who were successful in the city would come to realize that there was a price to pay: as vibrant, alive and crowded as the city would become, there was an anonymity in life there. People would live in crowded apartment buildings, but not know their neighbors.
    Impact of Urbanization
    • In fact, it was more likely that successfu l people would be the ones to face this kind of isolation since poor immigrants created ethnic neighborhoods , and those places tended to be close-knit . In addition, the apartment buildings they lived in would more than likely be home to several families who were related.
    • The idea that successful men could live empty lives was best summed up in “The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot. Open that document and read.
    • Isolation in the city would continue to fascinate writers, artists and poets throughout the 20 th century.
    • Alfred Hitchcock explored both voyeurism and isolation in the city in his classic 1954 film “Rear Window”
    • The main character, played by Jimmy Stewart, is stuck in his apartment and watches his neighbors (whom he does not know) all day. He tries to analyze their lives, and we come to the conclusion that many of them are lonely, troubled, or both.
    • Perhaps the best artist to explore this phenomenon (isolation in urban America) was Edward Hopper.
    • His paintings are studies in dark and light, and many are scenes which are viewed through, or near, windows.
    • When his settings are in the country, they are quiet and lovely. When they are in the city, however, they take on a new perspective.
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    • Open the Word document, “Image Analysis of Edward Hopper” and read.
    • The essay is about the painting at the right, “Room in New York”
    • So, ultimately we have said that the growth of urbanization was prompted by a number of things:
      • Even though farm life was considered the ideal American occupation, it was also (to some degree) one of the causes of slavery. Consequently, it may have lost some of its luster through this association.
      • Urban, industrial life seemed superior since it provided new and improved technology, some of which (the camera) hastened the end of the Romantic era by exposing the horrors of war.
      • Even farming technology, by improving farm output, paradoxically sped up the decline of the number of farmers in America while at the same time increasing the number of farms.
      • People like Richard W. Sears made urban life seem accessible through their catalogs of wondrous new goods.
    • And yet, urban life – in spite of the increasing number of people in cities – led to increasing isolation. Is it possible that technology is the culprit? That it has not only contributed to this sense of isolation but in fact has contributed to a desire for isolation?
    • What are the major technological products/innovations of the 20 th (and 21 st ) century?
    • The Television
    • The Computer
    • The Internet
    • The Cell Phone
    • The iPod
    • To what degree do they each serve ISOLATION?
    • Read the three short articles on “technology isolation”:
    • iSolation Nation
    • iPod Isolation
    • Technology Isolation Syndrome
    • Perhaps the best example is the iPod. Even that “i” serves the SELF. It is a device that allows the owner to create his/her own playlists – each one unique to the owner, and to listen in privacy.
    • Last year, I predicted (wrongly) that the “customization” of iPods would be the next big thing. It didn’t happen. Is that because the current styles allow iPod users to be “invisible” because they don’t call attention to themselves?
    • Not only does the iPod device isolate the listener in content and in design, but the ads reinforce this notion :
    • There are even websites that allow you to create your own iPod ad:
    • Or create a satirical parody:
    • ESSAY:
      • In an essay of 3-4 pages, address the following
        • In the late 19 th century, America’s collective psychology changed and it found itself slowly leaving the bucolic countryside, abandoning the farm and heading to the city. Once there, America became a different kind of country than the one envisioned by the Founding Fathers: more resilient perhaps, but also more jaded. In the first part of your essay, explain this change, then address the next part.
        • Life in the city, despite its overcrowding, increasingly led to the isolation of its inhabitants, an emotion that has been explored over the past 100 years by writers, artists, poets and filmmakers. And yet, this isolating quality persists. Is it because our technological advances promote isolation by serving individual tastes and desires? Or is it perhaps the case that modern Americans prefer isolation? That we have sought out products and devices that increase our sense of individuality, and consequently our isolation?
    • Your essay must contain references to the material provided in this presentation.
    • There is a copy of this prompt on the Moodle Site (“Urbanization Essay Prompt”) as well as the rubric I will use to grade it. Essay due no later than the last day of classes.
  • Good Luck !