Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Teaching the American Twenties: Exploring the Decade through Literature and Art

Defining American Culture

Anthropology and sociology encourage Americans to investigate the culture of Middletown. Cowboys and Native Americans, both real and romanticized, captivate American writers and folklorists. The Harlem Renaissance redefines American culture.


Investigating "Americanness"

Americans increasingly turn to their own cultures as a subject of study, from Vernon Parrington's Main Currents in American Culture to the Lynds' Middletown, Zora Neale Hurtson's folklore-inspired fiction to William Carlos Williams's Spring and All.

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Romanticizing Cowboys and Indians

Writers and folklorists including Mary Austin, Zane Grey, Ross Santee, and J. Frank Dobie study and popularize Native American and cowboy cultures. Grey and Austin offered highly idealized and romanticized notions of each, while Santee and Dobie seek to counter such portrayals.

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The Harlem Renaissance

Amidst the cultural awakening in Harlem, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Aaron Douglas, and Miguel Covarrubias produce groundbreaking works of art. Leaders W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey offer African Americans conflicting strategies for racial uplift.

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