Material Culture and Design in the 1930s: New York and the American Scene

Parsons School of Design: Sch. Art and Dsgn Hist and Th

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Graduate Course
Degree Students
Material Culture and Design
Spring 2024
Taught By: Marilyn Cohen
Section: A

CRN: 15243

Credits: 3

This course examines material culture and design during, before, and after the Great Depression in the U.S., a period of acute national distress and self-consciousness. The new technologies of radio and sound movies, documentary photography, and newsreels presented a previously unseen view of the country to its people. The course will integrate film (e.g., Astaire and Rogers, Frank Capra, Busby Berkeley, etc.), documentary photography, and contemporary museum exhibitions, with attention to material culture ranging from fashion to sheet music and cars to murals. We will look at streamlining in architecture, furnishings, and appliances by industrial designers such as Russel Wright and Donald Deskey as well as at modernism and the colonial revival style and make trips where possible to relevant sites and collections in NYC such as Rockefeller Center and the U.S. Custom House where Reginald Marsh painted government sponsored murals in 1937. This was a singular moment in American cultural history during which the government itself became a source of patronage to maintain and generate popular spirit. Issues of gender, ethnicity, racism, and nationalism necessarily abound in this period of cultural unrest, but the greater population held fast to the idea of the American Dream rather than giving way to political turmoil or revolution. How? The ‘subplot’ here will be an exploration of the ways in which the 30s is re-presented, e.g., films set in the thirties and retro style. Readings come from material culture, American studies, cultural history, design, and fashion studies. Run seminar-style, the course invites student participation as vital with class presentations and a final paper required.

Open to: All university graduate degree students. Some seats are reserved for MA History of Design and Curatorial Studies students.

College: Parsons School of Design (PS)

Department: Sch. Art and Dsgn Hist and Th (ADHT)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 15

Add/Drop Deadline: February 4, 2024 (Sunday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: April 16, 2024 (Tuesday)

Seats Available: Yes

* Seats available but reserved for a specific population.

Status: Closed*

* Status information is updated every few minutes. The status of this course may have changed since the last update. Open seats may have restrictions that will prevent some students from registering. Updated: 11:10am EDT 5/27/2024

Meeting Info:
Days: Wednesday
Times: 1:55pm - 3:45pm
Building: Johnson/Kaplan 66 West 12th
Room: 501
Date Range: 1/24/2024 - 5/15/2024