The Depression and after: Material Culture, Design, and the American Scene in New York

Parsons School of Design: Art/Design Hist & Theory

Liberal Arts
Undergraduate Course
Graduate Course
Degree Students
Material Culture and Design
Summer 2023
Taught By: Marilyn Cohen
Section: A

CRN: 3241

Credits: 3

This course looks at material culture, decorative arts, and design during and after the Depression, a period of acute national self-consciousness. New technologies of radio and sound movies, documentary photography, and newsreels provided a view of the country and its people previously unseen. The course integrates film (e.g., Astaire and Rogers, Frank Capra, Busby Berkeley, etc.), theatrical productions, documentary photography, and museum exhibitions from or about the thirties with material culture ranging from fashion to sheet music and cars to mural paintings. We consider streamlining in design starting in the 1920s as well as the Colonial Revival. New York City provides a very real backdrop to this. Visits to sites may include Radio City Music Hall, part of the larger Rockefeller Center, and the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House where Reginald Marsh’s murals are indicative of this singular moment in American history when the government itself became a source of patronage. We will explore issues of gender, ethnicity, racism, and nationalism in this period of cultural unrest that nevertheless held fast to the idea of the American Dream rather than surrendering to political turmoil or revolution. The ‘subplot’ here will be an exploration of the ways in which the 1930s is re-presented in film and retro styling. The class will meet 3 hours a day, Monday through Friday, for a two-week period. Course readings will come from material culture studies, cultural history, design, cinema, and fashion studies, and a required research paper for the course will not be due until the end of the summer semester which is August 13.

Open to: University graduate students.

College: Parsons School of Design (PS)

Department: Art/Design Hist & Theory (PGHT)

Campus: New York City (GV)

Course Format: Seminar (R)

Modality: In-Person

Max Enrollment: 18

Add/Drop Deadline: June 13, 2023 (Tuesday)

Online Withdrawal Deadline: July 26, 2023 (Wednesday)

Seats Available: Yes

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: 8:38pm EDT 10/1/2023

Meeting Info:
Days: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
Times: 10:00am - 1:00pm
Building: Parsons 2 W 13th
Room: 311
Date Range: 6/5/2023 - 6/16/2023
Days: TBD
Times: TBD
Building: TBD
Room: TBD
Date Range: 6/17/2023 - 8/13/2023