Together in Solitude: The Carefully Bound Friendship of Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy

  At the end of Mary McCarthy’s 1975 eulogy for her dear friend Hannah Arendt, which was later published as an essay called “Saying Good-Bye to Hannah” in McCarthy’s book Occasional Prose, McCarthy tells an anecdote about a visit that Arendt paid her at her home in Maine. It was the summer after Arendt’s husband, … Read more

Allen Ginsberg in the 1940s: The Making of a Poet in New York City

By Emile Anceau


Allen Ginsberg — as photographed by William S. Burroughs — on the rooftop of his Lower East Side apartment, between Avenues B and C, in the Fall of 1953.


Allen Ginsberg lived fully through the second half of the 20th century. As America was then the dominant nation in the world, Ginsberg was at the very core of what was also the dominant scene – both cultural, and political. Throughout his life, he was involved in several political and social issues which divided America (his relationship with communism, his protest against Vietnam war and more generally for peace, his fight for homosexual recognition and legalization of marijuana… these are the main issues that public opinion remembers of the poet as an “activist” and which are all very tinted with the ideas of the movements appearing in the 1960s) and in this respect it could nearly be possible to write an American history through Ginsberg’s experiences and involvements as it seems that he was present on the scene of every major events of the second half of the 20th century in America. Even when he was still a young man in formation, Ginsberg was already at the very core of what moved America, since New York City in the 1940s was then undoubtedly “the place to be” for a twenty years old aspiring poet eager to discover the intellectual, poetical and musical scene of America, but also for a young man struggling with his sexuality.

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A Manhattan Intellectual’s Guide to the Art and Business of Simply Going Mad

By Michael Darer

from Neuropsychiatry in World War II, Office of Medical History, US Army Medical Department


Mental illness and the treatment surrounding it has always had a complicated place in American society. The spectre of madness–as some might have called it– has been around for centuries, going by numbers of informal names, and treated through numbers of untested methods. Despite periods of misunderstanding, fear, and disinterest, however, questions of sanity and mental health have long had a position in American culture.

In the mid-20th century, however, that position solidified.

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The New York City Fashion Industry, Female Fashion Editors, and their Influence on The Locusts Have No King

By Natasha Cucullo



“For all its sweetness and light, Locusts is an intelligent, hard-headed, clear-eyed examination of art, love, ruthlessness, infidelity, commerce, ambition, betrayal and destruction. It is, in short, a quintessential New York novel…The whole novel rings as true now as it must have more than a century ago” –Katie Christensen, Barnes and Noble Review


The Locusts Have No King by Dawn Powell is a satirical work of fiction documenting the lives of the sexually independent and aggressively business-oriented men and women of the New York publishing and performing worlds in the late 1940s. Filled with lust, love, confusion and betrayal, Powell narrates the professional, sexual and social experiences of the three main characters, Frederick Olliver, a writer for small literary journals waiting for his big break, Lyle Gaynor, “the better half of a married team of successful Broadway playwrights” (Morris, The New York Times), and Dodo Brennan, Frederick’s new love interest, and the plot unfolds as their affairs are pushed to the brink. Published in 1948, The Locusts Have No King is a production of its time; World War II opened up crucial opportunities for women in the workforce—and for women seeking executive positions, fashion and fashion-related industries (which include theater, publishing, art, and design) provided a space to take on greater responsibilities in management. Powell infuses her characters with the attitudes that women and men possessed in this changing social, political and economic milieu.

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When World Domination is not Enough: The Lack of Cultural Legitimization of Comic Books

By Zachary Sporn

The Flash; Arrow; Constantine; Gotham; Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; these are the currently-airing television shows heavily based off of comic books – and only the ones I can name off the top of my head. There are 20—yes, 20—movies based on Marvel and D.C. comic books currently scheduled for release between now and the end of 2018. One might be tempted to think of the current prevalence of comic books as unprecedented, when in fact comic books were one of if not the most wide-reaching form of media in 1940’s America. According to one comic book scholar: “A Yank Weekly article, published in November of 1945, cited the estimates of the Market Research Company of America, which found that about 70 million Americans, roughly half of the U.S. population, read comic books,” (Kelley, 1).

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An Age of Anxiety: W.H. Auden’s Existential Theology of the 1940s

By Sam Leiva

Auden, as photographed in the 1950s
Auden, as photographed in the 1950s

Born in York, England in 1907, the poet W.H. Auden is celebrated as one of the most accomplished writers of the 20th century. Admired for his vast intellect, unsurpassed virtuosity in verse’s technical forms, and wide–ranging fields of knowledge, Auden found eminence across the Atlantic during his long tenure as a poet. Following the 1930s, an era indelibly marked by the Great Depression, Hitler’s rise to power, and the Spanish Civil War, the 1940s was a time of great national and global crises. As the period brought vast changes to the United States across its social, political, and economic spheres, it also introduced the U.S. to a new, collective fear centered on the existential questions of alienation, authenticity, and the meaning of man’s existence in the modern world. For Auden, this era of conflict and unprecedented transformations called for a new kind of poetry to be written.

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‘Elegance with a Dash of Daring’: Exploring Womanhood in Harper’s Bazaar

By Anabel Pasarow



“What I understand by manners, then, is a culture’s hum and buzz of implication. It is that part of a culture which is made up of half-uttered or unuttered or unutterable expressions of value. They are hinted at by small actions, sometimes by the arts of dress or decoration, sometimes by tone, gesture, emphasis or rhythm, sometimes by the words that are used with a special frequency or a special meaning. They are the things that for good or bad draw the people of a culture together and that separate them from the people of another culture. It is the part of a culture which is not art, nor religion, nor morals, not politics, and yet it relates to all these highly formulated departments of culture. It is modified by them; it modifies them; it is generated by them; it generates them,”[1] said Lionel Trilling, in his address to the Conference on the Heritage of the English-speaking Peoples and Their Responsibilities on September 27, 1947 at Kenyon College.

The following year literary critic William Van O’Connor touched on Trilling’s speech in his essay “Mannequin Mythology: The Fashion Journals.”[2]

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The Brooklyn Dodgers Community, 1941-1957

By Gregory Goldstone



Between 1941 and 1957, Brooklyn came together as a community. The greatest uniting force was the Brooklyn Dodgers, their baseball team that played at Ebbets Field in Flatbush. The people of Brooklyn didn’t just cheer for the Dodgers, they lived by them. Radio came at the right time for Brooklyn, and it became pervasive in the borough as soon as families could afford to have one. What came through those speakers during the long, summer days, was baseball.

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Fringe at the Forefront: J. D. Salinger, The New Yorker, and the Sensation of Convention

By Daniel Maseda

Salinger in 1950; photo Lotte Jacobi, courtesy of Wikipedia


Nestled between advertisements for the chic Canadian Château Frontenac, the 1947 Paul Brown Sporting Calendar from Brooks Brothers, two separate waterfront Miami vacation destinations, and distinguished liquors and wines, J. D. Salinger’s short story “Slight Rebellion Off Madison” appeared in the December 21, 1946 issue of The New Yorker. [1] Portraying the anxious attempts of a teenage preparatory school student to escape with his sweetheart from the restricting world of the New York City to the open land of the north, this piece was the first in a long line of Salinger’s short works to be published in the revered and widely circulated magazine. Salinger would go on to publish stories in The New Yorker with increasing frequency in the years that followed, as acclaim and approval for his work grew rapidly among audiences and editors alike. By the end of the decade, his work would become a staple of the magazine, to the extent that Salinger and The New Yorker were indicative of each other even in name. Though he had published sixteen stories in other magazines before the publication of “Slight Rebellion,” it was his relationship with The New Yorker that ultimately catalyzed his emergence in the literary mainstream and positioned him at the forefront of contemporary American fiction in the midcentury post-war era. Just as critics specifically recognized Salinger as “a New Yorker writer,” The New Yorker was his platform.[2]

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Bebopped and Rebopped: The Births of Bebop and Invisible Man

By Peter Helman

invisible man


In the early 1940s, during after-hours jam sessions at Harlem clubs such as Minton’s Playhouse and Clark Monroe’s Uptown House, a group of young jazz musicians hailing from across the country began to develop a new sound, a new form of jazz music (Lott 598). Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie recalls that, during jam sessions at Minton’s, “Theloni[o]us Monk and I began to work out some complex variations on chords and the like, and we used them at night to scare away the no-talent guys. After a while, we got more and more interested in what we were doing as music, and, as we began to explore more and more, our music evolved.” (Stewart 338). In this evolution, Gillespie notes, “we were…playing, seriously, creating a new dialogue among ourselves, blending our ideas into a new style of music…You only have so many notes, and what makes a style is how you get from one note to the other…We invented our own way of getting from one place to the next.” (Stewart 340).

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