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4) The Roaring 1920s

Events and Policies

The Lost Generation

- Europe reconstructs after WWI, US engages in no important affairs, both Europe and US experience disillusion

- some American intellectuals and writers leave for Europe and try to find new values to replace the lost old ones

- other Americans at home seek to re-establish the old values of patriotism, religion, family values, success in life


= heightened nationalism, xenophobia, in America opposition to immigration, especially war immigrants

- Johnson-Reed Act, or, the Immigration Act (1924): limited the quote of immigrants to 2% of the number of people of the given nationality who were already living in US in 1890

- First Red Scare: the Russian Revolution (1917) removed the Tsarist autocracy and established the Soviet Union, awoke in US fear of communism

- Sacco and Vanzetti: two Italian-born anarchists tried for robbery and murder, sentenced to death, and electrocuted

- Ku Klux Klan (since 1865): in 1920s began opposing immigrants, "hyphenated Americans" (Woodrow Wilson's term), mainly German-Americans


= militant Protestantism against Darwinian theory and for a literal interpretation of the Bible

- William Jennings Bryan: spokesman for Fundamentalism, supporter of Anti-Evolution Laws prohibiting teaching the theory, the laws were passed in several states, especially in Tennessee

- Scopes Monkey Trial: John Scopes taught the evolution in Tennessee, was persecuted by Bryant, lost the case, but his defender Clarence Darren ridiculed the idea of Fundamentalism (see Inherit the Wind, play 1955, film 1960)


- the Volstead Act (1919, in effect 1920-1933): prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcohol for consumption

- alcohol consumption did not stop, rather contributed to organized crime and corruption in law enforcement

- speakeasies: bars selling spirits during Prohibition (e.g. The Cotton Club, a bar with jazz, dancing, and drinking)

- Al Capone: a crime syndicate leader dedicated to smuggling and bootlegging of liquor, gambling, and prostitution

- new morals: a carpe diem stance to life after the WWI, connected with the Prohibition, also with Freud's theories

- the flapper: an emancipated woman with short hair, in short skirts, smoking, drinking, driving, flying, etc.


Fashion: elegant slim dresses with lowered waists and hats for women

Leisure activities: vaudeville, entertainments with dancing, music listening, and drinking

Sports: Babe Ruth, a baseball player

Miss America: started in 1921, the first winner was Margaret Gorman


- the Jazz Age: jazz arrives from the South to big cities and becomes the prominent genre

- Bessie Smith: an African-American blues and jazz singer

- King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band: a group led by the jazz cornet player Joe King Oliver, including Louis Armstrong

- Duke Ellington: an African-American jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader

- George Gershwin: a pianist and composer of Russian descent, author of Rhapsody in Blue for piano and jazz band

- dances: Charleston, Foxtrot, Black Bottom; dance marathons

- "I'm Just Wild about Harry": a popular song for the first African-American Broadway musical

- Fred and Adele Astaire: a brother and sister dancing couple

- Josephine Baker: an African-American dancer, singer, and actress, the first world famous black dancer


- Rudolph Valentino: an Italian silent film actor, sex symbol, and pop icon, played e.g. in The Sheik (1921)

- Clara Bow: a silent film actress, e.g. Wings (1927, the winner of the first Oscar awarded)

- Gloria Swanson: a silent film actress, later played a silent film star in the talkies era in Sunset Boulevard (1950)

- Lon Chaney (The Phantom of the Opera, 1925), John Barrymore (Don Juan, 1926), Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo

- slapstick actors: Harold Lloyd (Safety Last, 1923), Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Laurel and Hardy

- The Jazz Singer (1927): the first feature-length sound film, a musical film starring May McAvoy and Al Jolson

- later films about 1920s: The Public Enemy (1931, on Prohibition); The Roaring Twenties (1939, on Prohibition); They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (Horace McCoy's novel from 1935, Sydney Pollack's film from 1969, on a dancing marathon); Inherit the Wind (play from 1955, film from 1960, on Scopes Trial)


- Art Deco (1925 - 1939): a decorative and glamorous mixture neoclassical, modernist, and art nouveau elements

- skyscrapers: Wrigley Building in Chicago, Illinois, resembles a Victorian Gothic revival

- Frank Lloyd Wright: Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan; Ennis House in Los Angeles, California

Visual Arts


- Georgia O'Keeffe: painter of flowers, rocks, and landscapes with sexual innuendos

- Morgan Russell: pioneer of Synchromism, i.e. abstract style attempting to make painting reproduce the sound

- Man Ray: painter, experimental film maker, photographer, author of collages and installations of found objects

- Lee Miller: Man Ray's lover and assistant, a fashion model, photographer, author of photojournalism from WWII


- Thomas Hart Benton: murals, rural landscapes

- Edward Hopper: common life pictures

- Grant Wood: the rural Midwest

- Horace Pippin: African-American life scenes

- N. C. Wyeth: illustrations


- Lost Generation: Gertrude Stein, Francis Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Malcolm Cowley

- Harlem Renaissance: Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Zora Neal Hurston, Countee Cullen

- Southern Renaissance: William Faulkner, Erskine Caldwell, John Dos Passos

- crime fiction: Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler

- milestone publications: T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922), Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925), Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (1926), Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury (1929)

Základní údaje

  • Předmět

    America in the 20th Century.
  • Semestr

    Letní semestr 2008/09.
  • Vyučující

    Martina Knápková, Alena Kolářová.
  • Status

    Volitelný seminář pro III. blok.


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