American Modernity

Required Reading and Viewing: American Modernity.
? Casper and Davies, Five Hundred Years: America and the World, pages 255–265 and 314–318
? Robert S. Lynd and Helen Merrell Lynd, “Inventions Re-making Leisure” (1929)
? Beatrice Hinkle, “The New Morality” (1930)
? Ralph G. Martin, “Life it the New Suburbia” (1950)
? F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
My Life and Work, Chapter V
War is a Racket, Chapters 1 and 5
Assignment Description:
To complete this assignment, you will answer four questions in a paragraph of five to seven sentences each. Choose one question to answer from each of the following groups.
Note: If you answer more than one question from a single group, your instructor will only grade one of your answers; the other will receive a zero grade.
Group 1
a. Based on your understanding of our readings this week, craft a definition of the term modernity.
What does this term mean, and what are its key features? As you do so, make sure to include specific language from a key reading to support your answer.
b. Of all the readings this week, who seems to be the most exemplary figure of American modernity, and why? Why should this person receive so much attention or credit? Include key evidence from this text to shore up your claim.
Group 2
a. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s vision of the Roaring Twenties is at once a glamorization of a decadent lifestyle as well as a criticism of it. By the end, which idea—glamorization or criticism—do you think takes stronger hold? Remember to use key ideas from the text to anchor your claim.
b. Some have claimed that Gatsby is a figure of Romantic or even Transcendental character rather than a figure of modernity. Remembering what you can about these ideas, describe what evidence you see here to support this claim.
c. Daisy and Jordan appear to be two ends of a spectrum in terms of how women may act in the Twenties. What key traits to they embody, and what does that say about women’s roles in the
moment following suffrage? As you respond, base your answer in Beatrice Hinkle’s notion of the “new morality.”
d. F. Scott Fitzgerald is often said to have written the quintessential novel of the 1920s despite the fact his vision seems entirely blinkered by wealth. At the same time, his language attempts to “make new” the speed and possibility of the era. Select a particularly poetic passage that you
think tries to make us see this new era in a fresh way, and explain how it does this.
Group 3
a. One of the dominant narratives of modernity is the shift toward a hyperrationalized, and both Henry Ford and Smedley Butler are embedded (though in different ways) with this narrative.
Using a key example from, how are each of these writers thinking about the uses of efficiency in their work?
b. Smedley Butler and Henry Ford have much to say about the way technology will move civilization forward. At the same time, however, they seem not to be talking about everyone in that order. Based on Beatrice Hinkle’s depiction of new modern morality, what are the real
options for women? Using specific language to make your point, do suspect that women have a place in the world Butler and Ford are talking about?
Group 4
Select an image from this week’s image gallery. Drawing on what you know about modernity now, which of these images seem to exemplify American modernity, and why? Make sure you use specific details from the images to make your case, and connect it to a key idea from our readings.
Edward Hopper, Nighthawks (1942)
Jackson Pollock, Convergence (1950)
Grant Wood, American Gothic (1930)
You ONLY allowed to use the above sources (NO OUTSIDE SOURCES).


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