Southern California Representations and Realities as a Homefront for WWII and the Emerging Cold War (1938-1958)
In the twentieth-century, entire economies of nations became grounded in the production of material needed for war--and so it was in the U.S., from the late thirties to the fifties and beyond, as Americans journeyed from depression to prosperity with an economy driven by the needs of military "defense."
While the war-front brought unity and opportunity to many, seen as California "sunshine," it also brought a division and conflict eloquently and cynically expressed in varied "noir" artforms--books, comics, film, and early television. Homefront war production revealed dramatically deep divisions in American society--while some were able to climb from the working to professional classes, others could not. Parallel worlds of the American "dream" and continued poverty laid bare limits of ethnicity, race, class, and gender in the new working order, especially as jobs that opened up during the war were often closed to people of color after. Such gaps between promise and possibilities sparked the Civil Rights Movement.
Welcome to California "noir," where we will look into the cracks of "fortress California" for a deeper understanding of the full impact of war and mobilization at a time when "We Can Do it" was the slogan of the day. In these years, Southern Californians are facing the end of the Great Depression; an increasing cadence of chaos and confusion with mobilization, especially after 1941; and finally, the undergirding tension created by nuclear armanents and Cold War. For each of these periods, you will want to think about the differences between the realities of life and the rhetoric, both in propaganda and in artistic expression.
First we will begin with the legacy of the thirties, as expressed in the 1939 writings of Nathaniel West, Raymond Chandler, Aldous Huxley, as well as Earle Stanley Gardner and John MacDonald. These writers render a cynical view of human nature, and also introduce us to the region of our focus at the end of the thirties--Los Angeles, Hollywood, Ventura, and Santa Barbara. Second, we will spend most of our time understanding ways in which people coped with conflicts over race, class, and gender; poverty; crime; problems of alcohol, drugs, and addiction; as well as depression and mental illness.
We will focus on Santa Barbara, Ventura, and Los Angeles Counties in particular (and we now have the1940 census!). We will end with the rise of ethical conceptions, people who begin to challenge and to question the difficulties of rapid mobilization and migration on the homefront of WWII.
Possible Class Topics: Film & Fiction Noir--Reporters (News), Writers, and Filmakers; Crime; Substance Abuse, Depression, Mental Illness; Early Philisophical and Religious Writers of the Fifties. Bibliography of possibilities will be up this week with the rest of the syllabus. Topics should be grounded in Santa Barbara, Ventura, or Los Angeles Counties.
Instructions for Work Due
1-Short Reading Essays
1-Read, jot down notes and pages of THOSE examples or insights that you find especially meaningful (don't take too many notes, but jot down insights and thoughts you find most significant)
2-Using these notes, sum up each reading, addressing examples you find especially significant--then critque it, evaluate the author's argumument and points. Think in terms of two paragraphs--one to sum up what the author said or wrote, some specifics, and the other for your evaluation of the reading, its meaning.
3-After writing all of the reading paragraphs, attach a thoughtful conclusion based on all of the reading for that week, what do these authors together reveal about the homefront Southern California? Spend time here to boil down all of the reading to what you find most significant.
4-After writing your conclusion, write ONE well-penned and thoughtful "thesis" sentence that represents your conclusions. Put this sentence at the top of your essay, your paragraphs in the middle, and your conclusion at the end.
5-Use Times Roman 12, Double Space Text, NO Extra Spaces b/t Paragraphs, include REFERENCE NOTES & BIBLIOGRAPHY.
2-Just-Before-Class Discusson Post "Thesis Tweet"--what is MOST important about this week's reading?
Take that LAST SENTENCE (#4 above) and post it on our Class Discussion Page (Moodle) any time before our Wednesday night class.
1-Create a Word Document and Save it as "Proposal." Each week you will add and revise the same document.
2-Cut and Paste the folowing into your document--and don't forget to add page numbers:
Date (each time you revise your proposal and turn it in, change the date)
Proposal (Change this to "Draft Proposal" in Week 6 and to "Final Proposal" in Week 8)
Working Title (of course you can change this as you go)
1-Question: Place your actual question here.
As you narrow your focus, begin to write an introduction to your topic underneath your actual quesion. Why are you interested in your topic, and why should I be interested in your topic? In this introduction, think of writing about a double spaced page or two in which you introduce me to the basics of your topic (including significant dates and places that define your topic, and then to tell me why it is important).
2-Method: Simply, how are you going to answer your question? Biography, literature, film, etc. How will you use your sources to answer your question?
3-Bibliography: (Use Chicago Style)
A. Primary Sources (the MOST important)
B. Secondary Sources (Depending upon your topic, you should have between 10-20 of the MOST important secondary sources for your paper--remember, you can use our class reading here, and you have already been writing about the context of the era each week)
4-Hypothesis: Write a good page about what you EXPECT you will find and why, explain your reasoning.