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CAS 597 - American Political Rhetoric in Depression and War

Professor: Mary E. Stuckey
Office: 241 Sparks
Email: mes519@psu.edu

The period between 1929-1945 was an enormously important one for the US and the world, when old verities were challenged and new ones had yet to take hold. During these years, Americans argued over the place of government in their lives and their economy; the extent to which the nation should be considered a collection of states or a united political entity; and the role the US should properly play in the world. Franklin D. Roosevelt presided over the nation during these tumultuous years and left his stamp indelibly upon it. But the era is not reducible to FDR. There were numerous other important people who lived, worked, and who argued with, against, and for the president. This is not, therefore, a class on FDR and his rhetoric, although both are central to the course, but on the various contestations and developments from the years of depression and war. The Democratic Party, for instance, had a women's division, headed by an openly gay woman (Molly Dewson); FDR also appointed the first woman cabinet member (Frances Perkins), who faced stiff resistance as she assumed that role; Pauli Murray began to advocate for their rights as a trans person and for non-violent protest on civil rights. African Americans resisted Jim Crow, Japanese Americans were interned, and Latinx people were both welcomed and excluded. The radio enabled new kinds of political communication, as did the new art form of comic books; and the photography of the era includes the iconic images of Dorthea Lange and the films of the infamous Leni Reinfestalh. Religion took many forms, ranging from the evangelism of Aimee Semple McPherson through the anti-Semitic ravings of Father Coughlin to the thoughtful Christianity of Reinhold Niebuhr. We'll be talking about all of these people, and more like them, and we'll be thinking about what it means to do politics in a moment of political, social, and economic rupture.