American Culture in the 1920s (Twentieth Century American by Susan Currell

By Susan Currell

The Nineteen Twenties observed the USA upward thrust to its present prestige because the prime global superpower, matched by way of an rising cultural dominance that characterised the second one 1/2 the 20 th century. This publication presents an stimulating account of the key cultural and highbrow developments of the last decade which were pivotal to its characterization as 'the jazz age'. Currell's booklet locations universal representations of the 'roaring twenties' and the 'lost iteration' into context via chapters on literature, tune and function, movie and radio, and visible artwork and layout, along the exceptional upward push of rest and intake within the 1920s.

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In his organic conception of civilisation first published in Germany in 1918, Spengler wrote that Western civilisation was in its ‘winter’ phase and thereby racing towards its inexorable end. To many, the decline was specifically connected to modern patterns of culture and reproduction and Spengler’s idea merely confirmed the well-established theories of ‘race suicide’ promoted by eugenicists over the previous two decades. It was in the aftermath of the Great War, however, that these ideas reached their zenith of popularity, epitomised by the 1920 publication of Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide of Color Against White World-Supremacy.

In Reforging America (1927) he highlighted how white America could rebuild its ‘native’ stocks and assimilate white immigrants into the fold. While Stoddard represented a trend rather than a founder of such ideas, his writings undoubtedly contributed to the widespread popularity and dissemination of racist ideology in the 1920s. The Intellectual Context 25 Despite the overt racism of his books, with historical hindsight Stoddard appears to have predicted some key convulsions of the post-colonial world in the second part of the twentieth century.

Women’s smoking, drinking and jazz dancing represented a further rejection of prohibitive Victorianism and feminism as ‘the flapper’ emerged as the most overt rejection of the ‘old’. Connected to a new sexual freedom and the mass production of ready-to-wear items, the flapper style entailed a minimum of undergarments, short skirts, filmy fabrics and sheer hosiery. Her bobbed hair (a release from the weight of tradition) represented female daring and eroticism. Smoking, drinking and cosmetics – traditionally associated with prostitutes – further underscored women’s right to sexuality and personal expression.

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