Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression
The phrase “the Great Depression” brings to mind black-and-white photographs of tired men in worn clothes standing in bread lines, scenes from The Grapes of Wrath (book or film, your choice), and perhaps a glimpse of a Busby Berkeley musical number. Morris Dickstein takes these iconic images and fleshes out the truth and history behind them in a series of essays that are both literary criticism and cultural commentary of the United States from the late 1920s to the early 1940s. With history and economics as a backdrop, Dickstein looks at the Depression through the prism of the popular culture of the time, showing the divide between the poverty depicted in the newsreels and the glamorous life represented in movies and musicals. Although the 1930s were a golden age for literature, with luminaries such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright producing some of their best work during this decade, it was also a time of repression, with various international, and at times, local, governments discouraging freedom of thought and action. The work is well documented, with notes and a bibliography; photographs provide further insight into the schism between the multiple fantasies and realities of the era.