This course attempts to delineate the relationship between media, technology, and the body in the Great Depression era in regard to mass culture and popular culture.
Were film musicals, the “dance craze,” swing music, or popular radio broadcasts a means of escaping from the everyday conditions of Great-Depression life? Can the body be conceptualized as a site of social and cultural order which significantly influenced, and was reversely influenced by mass culture and popular culture? And what role in particular does the gendering and racializing of bodies play in this era? Furthermore, in what ways are intersections of different categories like age, class, dis/ability, and sexuality embodied in different cultural practices and representations?
In order to answer these questions, we will engage with theories of social practices – a field that spans a diverse range of works by authors such as Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Bruno Latour, and others – and explore those theories as cultural theories. We will thus analyze our readings and materials on film, radio, music, and dance through notions of body and embodiment, performance and performativity, as well as agency and experience. We can finally ask with Benedict Anderson how the U.S. American nation was redefined within the collective imagination in the 1930s through a particular network of media, technologies, and bodies.