Course Syllabus

Jackson Pollock, “Number 1, 1950” (Lavender Mist)
updated to reflect cancellation for snow

New York City in the 1940s




Alternative editions are acceptable.

Ellison, Ralph, Invisible Man (Vintage 0679732764)

Fearing, Kenneth, The Big Clock (NYRB 1590171810)

Hersey, John, Hiroshima (Vintage 0679721037)

Highsmith, Patricia, Strangers on a Train (Norton 0393321983)

McCarthy, Mary, The Company She Keeps

Miller, Henry, Death of a Salesman

Petry, Ann, The Street (Mariner 0395901499)

Salinger, J. D., Catcher in the Rye

Smith, Betty, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (HarperPerennial 0061120073)

Williams, Tennessee, Streetcar Named Desire (New Directions 0811216020)

Supplemental texts available via Moodle (m)






More complete descriptions of the assignments can be found on the course Moodle site.


  • Three response papers (2-4 pp. each) (30% of final grade) (choose any 3 of 5 dates)
  • An original research paper (15-20 pp.) on any aspect of the cultural life of New York City in the 1940s (40% of final grade);
  • A review of the critical literature (5-7 pp) on the subject of your research paper (10%);
  • An annotated bibliography of research materials you will make use of for your final paper (10%);
  • A one-page research paper proposal (10%);
  • Class participation (10%).


Students with Disabilities

It is the policy of Wesleyan University to provide reasonable accommodations to students with documented disabilities. Students, however, are responsible for registering with Disabilities Services, in addition to making requests known to me in a timely manner. If you require accommodations in this class, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible so that appropriate arrangements can be made. The procedures for registering with Disabilities Services can be found at



Electronic devices–including laptops, smartphones, and tablets—may not be used during class time without express permission of the instructor.




9/2       Course introduction

9/4             E.B White, “Here is New York” (m)

Alfred Kazin, “From the Subway to the Synagogue,” A Walker in the City (m)

 Anatole Broyard, When Kafka Was the Rage, chap 1 (m)

 Recommended: Andreas Feininger, New York in the 1940s, available via Art Library Reserve and in selections via Eastman House Archive

 Group A response paper due


9/4      Film screening, Jules Dassin, dir., The Naked City (1948)

9/9               The Naked City

 “New York, New York” (Gene Kelley, Jules Munshin, Frank Sinatra) from On the Town, dir. Stanley Donen (1949) (

“When You Walk Down Mainstreet With Me” (Vera-Ellen, Gene Kelly) from On the Town


“Miss Turnstiles” (Vera-Ellen) from On the Town

Jan Morris, “On Class,” Manhattan ’45 (m)



 George J. Lankevich, American Metropolis: A History of New York, chs. 8 and 9 (m)

Francois Weil, A History of New York, ch. 9 (m)

 Group B response paper due


9/11           Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

 Walker Evans photographs from Many Are Called (available via Art Library reserve and Google book)

 Weegee photographs, available in Weegee and the Naked City, on reserve at Art Library, and in Weegee’s World (


9/16     Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Group C response paper due


9/18     Ann Petry, The Street

 Aaron Siskind, photographs from Harlem Document (1940)


Joanne Reitano, The Restless City: A Short History of New York from Colonial Times to the Present, ch. 7 (m)

 Cheryl, Greenberg, “Mean Streets,” Or Does it Explode: Black Harlem in the Great Depression (m)


9/23     Petry, The Street

Group B response paper due


9/24     film screening, Robert Rossen, dir., Body and Soul (1947)


9/25           Rossen, dir., Body and Soul

Lionel Trilling, “The Other Margaret” (m)

 Group A response paper due


9/26     research paper proposal due


9/30     Miller, Death of a Salesman

Group C response paper due


10/2           Siegfried Giedion, “Space-Time in City Planning,” Space, Time, and  Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition (m)

 Elizabeth Bishop, “Varick Street” (m)

 Robert Moses, “Haussman,” Architectural Forum (July 1942), 57-66 (m)

 Alfred Kazin, “Never Had it So Good,” New York Jew(m)

 Recommended: Marshall Berman, “Robert Moses: The Expressway World,” All that is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity (s)


10/7           Hersey, Hiroshima

 Mary McCarthy, “The Hiroshima ‘New Yorker’,” Politics, Oct. 1946 (m)

 Group A response paper due


10/9     J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye


10/14   Salinger, Catcher in the Rye


 The Quiet One, dir. Sidney Myer (with Clifford Agee, Helen Levitt, Janice Loeb)

(1948), available via Internet Archive (

 Helen Levitt, photographs from A Way of Seeing

 Group B response paper due


10/16         W. H. Auden, “Spain,” “September 1, 1939,” “In Memory of W. B. Yeats,”

“Under Which Lyre,” “A Walk After Dark,” “Fleet Visit,” “The Shield of Achilles”

 Leonard Bernstein, Symphony No. 2 “The Age of Anxiety,” available via YouTube

 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History, chs. 1 and 8 (m)

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., “Not Left, Not Right, But a Vital Center,” New York Times Magazine, April 4, 1948 (m)


Alan Brinkley, “World War II and American Liberalism” (m)

William Graebner, The Age of Doubt, ch. 1 (m)

 Laura, dir. Otto Preminger, 20th Century Fox (1944)

 Group C response paper due


10/23   Mary McCarthy, The Company She Keeps


10/28   McCarthy, The Company She Keeps

Group A response paper due


10/30         Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

 Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko, excerpt from “Painting in New York” and other selections (Motherwell, Newman, Pollock, Rothko, Greenberg from Reading Abstract Expressionism)(m)

 Jackson Pollock, “The She-Wolf” (1943), “One: Number 31, 1950” (1950)

Clyfford Still, “1944-N No.2 (1944)

Barnett Newman, “Vir Heroicus Sublimus” (1950)

Willem deKoonig, “Woman, 1” (1950-52)


Ethan Morrden, All that Glittered: The Golden Age of Drama on Broadway, 1919-1959, chs. 11 and 12 (m)

 A Streetcar Named Desire, dir. Elia Kazan, Warner Bros. (1951)

 Erika Doss, “The Art of Cultural Politics: From Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism,” Recasting America, ed. Lary May (m)


11/4           Williams, Streetcar

Group B response paper due


11/6              Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train


11/7     survey of literature due


11/11           Highsmith, Strangers

Group C response paper due


11/13          Kenneth Fearing, The Big Clock

C. Wright Mills, White Collar, introduction, chs. 5 and 7 (m)


11/18          Fearing, The Big Clock

Group A response paper due


11/20        Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, through chap 7


 Phantom Lady, dir. Robert Siodmak, Universal (1944)

 David Reid and Jayne L. Walker, “Strange Pursuit: Cornell Woolrich and the Abandoned City of the 1940s,” Shades of Noir, ed. Joan Copjec (m)


11/25  annotated bibliography due


12/2                     Ellison, Invisible Man, through chap 14

Ellison, “On Bird, Bird-Watching, and Jazz” (m)

 Duke Ellington, “C Jam Blues” (

Ellington, “It Don’t Mean a Thing” (

Ellington, “Mood Indigo” (

 Count Basie Orchestra, “One O’Clock Jump” (

 “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” from Hellzapoppin’, dir. H. C. Potter, Universal (1941) (

 Dizzy Gillespie Orchestra, “Salt Peanuts” (

 Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, “Hot House” (

 Charlie Parker, Coleman Hawkins et al., “Ballade,” etc. (


William P. Gottlieb collection of photographs from the golden age of jazz, Library of Congress,

Lewis Erenberg, “Things to Come: Swing Bands, Bebop, and the Rise of a Postwar Jazz Scene,” Recasting America, ed. May (m)

Scott DeVeaux, The Birth of Bebop, introduction, ch. 6 (m)


 12/4          Ellison, Invisible Man, through conclusion

Ellison, “Harlem is Nowhere” (m)

Gordon Parks, “Harlem Gang Leader,” Life (November 1, 1948) (available in Google Book)



Christopher Z. Hobson, “Invisible Man and African-American Radicalism in World War II,” African American Review (Fall, 2005), available via JSTOR


Group B and C response paper due


12/13   research paper due