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Introduction to American Civilization - in engleza
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World War 1 - The 20s, the 30s.
-WW1 (The Great War: 1914-1918) - Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary and their allies, Turkey and Bulgaria) VS > Triple Entente: England, France, Russia + other countries: Japan, Italy, Belgium (the Allies) - collapse of the Central Powers
U.S. committed to :
- Centralization
- Scientific progress
- Plutocratic democracy
- National expansion
- A process of development initiated in the Civil War (turning point in American history)
- In the early 20th Century America entered the era of: - Big industry
- Big technology
- World power (acquisition of Puerto Rico & the Philippine Islands as a result of the Spanish - American War; shift from the status of debtor to a creditor-nation)

- Resistance to America's involvement in the world:
- Men's attitude - an old-fashioned isolationism rather than imperialistic ambition. (William James, Mark Twain, W.E.B Du Bois spoke out directly against signs of growing imperialism)
- Ex: a strong resistance to America becoming involved in the First World War
- Self-assurance & optimism, pride in the land (America = God's country, a model for the rest of the world)
- Intellectual climate in the Progressive Era - Determinism
- Pragmatism
- Woodrow Wilson - elected president on a platform of domestic reforms. He promised to keep US out of the war (200.000 soldiers)
- 1917 - US joined the Allies. When Wilson asked for a declaration of war he st

ated US objectives in highly idealistic terms: "The World must be made safe for democracy".
- Isolationism manifest after the war. Ex: Americans refused to allow the nation to enter the League of Nations (Wilson's own project). US fought a war to end all wars and could return to her own world and carry out her job
-The First World War - Major consequences:
- America emerged as superpower (1917 - no toll to death and destruction)
- The War did not shake American optimism (Ford, 1930, General Motors-Durant 1929 annus mirabilis: 24 mil. Cars registered. Boom industries > stocks went up, everybody became rich)
- Influences on American life:
. Broke down old fashioned habits and conventions
. Introduced new fashions in dress, manner, behavior and language
. It shook established moral codes > sexual emancipation (sexual behavior)
. Changed the sense of relation with the past - period of questioning and experimentation, fluidity - time of disillusionment and cynicism (the jazz age; Fitzgerald - its chronicler)
. The administration and general policy favored big business. Business began to boom (sometimes shady business)
. Corruption in high places (just like after the Civil War) and crime in lower places (gangsters run in the cities gang wars, executions & shoot-outs over who was to control the sale of beer)
. The introduction of certain European intellectual influences (Freud, Fraser, Marx)
. The shock of the war provided a stimulus to American writing - the Lost Generation
-Domestic Affairs:
- Two amendments added to the Constitution:
. The 18th amend. Passed in 1919 >Prohibition of intoxicating liquors
. The 19th amend. Ratified in 1920 > the triumph of women's suffrage
-Prohibition - Consequences of prohibition:
. Problem of enforcement of the law (Coastguard borders with Canada and Mexico)
. Bootleggers, private clubs, speakeasies > more consumption of liquor
. The growth of organized crime (its capital: Chicago) >10.000 speakeasies ; Scarface Al Capone - 20 million dollars
. Close tie-up between organized crime and corrupted politics (bribed policemen, mayors, judges) - Eliot Ness
. Prohibition suffered a catastrophic defeat after 1929, the Great Depression (need to provide jobs and market for farmers)
-The Red Scare: - after WW1, a time of unreasonable fear of communist subversion due to the dealings of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia (John Reed - The Days that Shook the World)
. 1919 - formed the American Communist Party (only 11.000 members)
. the American Socialist Party rejected affiliation with the 3rd (Communist) International
. influence of Marxism - writers went to Russia - > Dos Passos, Dreiser, Lewis (1st Nobel Prize), Cummings, Langston Hughes
. a rush of anti-syndicalist laws
. arrest and deportation of alien radicals (in Massachusetts the anarchists Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco were executed for a murder of which many liberals believed them innocent)
. American hysteria over radicals, anarchists and communists resulted in arrest and deportation of people thought to be subversive
. Reactionary Americanism: nativist prejudice: the rise of the K.K.Klan
-A new Ku Klux Klan:
. formed on Thanksgiving Night, 1915, on Stone Mountain near Atlanta
. a sinister organization - "silent empire" - ruled by Imperial Wizzard Colonel William Joseph Simmons (salesman, preacher)
. objectives: - protection of the honor and chastity of woman
- maintenance of white supremacy
- conservation of pure Americanism
. 1924 -> estimated 4 million members
. Passwords and outlandish costumes (robes and hoods), mysterious titles
. Attracted super patriots (America threatened by forms of un-Americanism) - the so-called champions of law & morality
. Prejudices against reds, Jews, Catholics, negroes
. The Klan almost dominated Indiana state government
Nativism-Restriction of immigration:
. Slogan: "Keep America American"
. Another form of nativist prejudice ->insistent demand for curbs on immigration (mass influx of foreign workers) ->marked a decisive turning point for American social history - put an end to one of the major forces influencing the composition of American society
. Wilson -> selfish closing of the gates of American opportunity but in 1921-1924 -1929 - Congress passed immigration acts:
- Restricting immigration to 2 percent of the foreign-born of each nationality according to the census of 1890 (350.000 reduced to 164.000 - in 1924)
- Discriminating drastically against southern and eastern Europe (Poles & Italians in 1924, Germans & Irish in 1929)

-The Great Depression:
. The period between the Wall Street Crash of October 1929 to World War II - the US experienced the worst economic decline in the 20th century
. Downward spiral of deflation
. The most pitiable were the unemployed
. Literal starvation
. Remedies:
o Hoover's faith in economic individualism which lead to ragged individualism, self-reliance, self-sufficiency - Black Friday (Hoover took office on Oct. 29, 1929);
o a rising demand for a Federal relief Program - >necessity of some kind of government planning -> New Deal ( the domestic programs and policies of the Roosevelt administration; marked the beginning of big government)
o Franklin D. Roosevelt's (won in 1933) Experimental spirit - came in power as a political opportunist (elected for 4 terms) -> liberty requires opportunity to make a living & this obliged government to intervene on the part of farmers, workers and middle businessmen to combat "economic tyranny" - > New Deal measures:
 Involved increased government regulation of business
 Government must promote the general welfare
. Roosevelt's administration (democratic party):
- A political opportunist. He brought together 5 "have-not" entities:
 The South (the country's nr. 1 problem)
 The Roman -Catholics (a minority group in many parts of the country)
 The blacks (particularly in urban communities)
 The Jews
 The labor unions ( Labour was to become a powerful political force)
The support of the intellectuals
o He inherited a crisis situation and what he effected amounted to a bloodless revolution
o Far-reaching reforms: → he gained enormous popularity and was the first and the last president to be elected for four terms.
 Yet the Depression did not come to an end until unemployment was ended by the expansion of armed forces and industry for the Second World War.
-Ideological consequences:
. The questioning of the capitalist system because of the breakdown of what had seemed to be the invaluable American system.
. The development of the socialist movement (neo-Marxist), deriving from Jeffersonian egalitarianism and democratic idealism
- What happened or failed to happen in the First World War weakened the cause of socialism (this weakening is one of the themes of Dos Passos' trilogy USA)
. The influence of Marxism →the American idealist accommodated Marxism to the native and familiar American version (Dos Passos → he knew no Russian poet as revolutionary as Whitman)
- Ex: the tradition of American activism (concern for the oppressed); the determinism of New England's Calvinism that rendered any human action unnecessary → communism was bound to arrive anyway
. Mass entertainment and popular arts that the new technology had provided :
o The movies (1927)
o The radio (1920)
. The great era for radio (by the end of the 1920s nearly every American family owned at least a cheap set)
. The great era of the movies - 1929 talking movies replaced silent pictures.
 The most popular entertainment for the masses
 Became a powerful educational force for the average Americans (taught them manners, introduced them to exotic settings, the world of the gangster, the movie star, the millionaire)
 The heyday of Rudolph Valentino, C. Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich
-Social and cultural consequences of mass entertainment:
. A sharpened division between the intellectual (including the poet and the novelist) and the man in the street
 Exceptions: Sinclair Lewis paid his respects:
. To the small-town businessman in Mainstreet (1920)
. To the go-getters of governing cities in Babbitt (1922)

 A powerful drift towards cultural uniformity, yet America had always had a powerful and, in some respects, valuable inertia -> the parts of the country that had their own individuality have managed to retain a surprising amount of it -> the various regional accents have managed to hold their own individuality
-Critical references to the cultural (literary) situation:
1. Regional accents:
o The 19th century -> the development of local color fiction (particularly in the South and the Midwest)
o The 20th century -> the process of a wide geographical distribution of writers went on rapidly
o Up to the War:
 Indiana-born Dreiser published Sister Carrie (1900) - the story of a Wisconsin girl who undergoes her initiation in Chicago
 Willa Cather: O Pioneers! (1913) - Nebraska setting
 Edgar Lee Masters: Spoon River Anthology (life in a small Illinois town)
o After the War: a lot of books with settings in the American hinterland
 Sherwood Anderson: Winesburg, Ohio (1919)
 The new literature coming out of the South
 The accounts of the far West by Steinbeck who wrote of farmers, fruit-pickers and Chicanos
 Nathaniel West: The Day of the Locust (1939), F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Last Tycoon (1941)
 Literature is not quaintly or coyly "regional"
 The artist's normal use of material at hand. No attempt to glamorize the material.
 "the region" used as a vantage point from which to criticize the national culture, meaning the latter's insipidity and vapid uniformity against the region's tang and color and humanity.
- Ex: the poetry of Frost (the criticism remains implicit, with New Hampshire)
- Explicit defenders of regional subcultures. Reassertions of the value of cultural differences partly prompted by the threat of an encroaching cultural uniformity
2. The threat of cultural uniformity elicited criticism of a different kind, which focused the attack on the thinness and banality, sentimentality and escapism of:
- The typical best seller
- The typical Broadway hit
- The popular movie
3. Questions about the nature of literature (Did art have any role in a scientific society? What should the poet write about in an industrial-urban society?)
- Along with the general repudiation of Victorian culture and morals, there was a reaction against Victorian notions of what literature was and the ways in which it was to be judged
- During the period from roughly 1920 to 1950 there occurred both in Britain and in America:
o An intense reexamination of the structure of literature and, as a consequence, of the nature of the critical activity itself stimulated by:
 The science of semantics , of depth psychology, anthropology
 New studies in the symbolism of ancient cultures, mythological patterns, comparative religion
 The state of the popular arts
 The general challenge of the prevailingly scientific climate of ideas
o Reexamination of the function of literature (the writer and the critic confronted with a crisis in the culture):
 The nature of literature and the role of the artist were defined in relation to science, religion
 During the Depression → the writer should be a prophet and provide the culture with inspired ideas or act as a skilled propagandist for the ideas of others

American literature between the Wars

-In the early 20th century America entered the era of:
- Big industry
- Big technology
- World power
-The process of development initiated in the Civil war, commitment to:
- Centralization
- Industrialization
- Scientific progress
- Plutocratic democracy
- National expansion
-Man's attitude: an old fashioned isolationism rather than imperialistic ambition

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