This Side of Despair: How the Movies and American Life Intersected during the Great Depression
Philip Hanson

About the Author:
Philip Hanson received his doctoral degree at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the Co-director of the American Studies Program at the University of San Francisco. His essays and short fiction have appeared in twenty periodicals, including The Journal of American Studies, Gestos, The Cambridge Quarterly, The Berkeley Fiction Review, and Other Voices. This is his first book.




This Side of Despair investigates the ways the most severe economic catastrophe in American history impacted America’s mass art form, the movies. Drawing from the methods of historicist inquiry that have developed over the past two decades, and especially the New Historicism, this book looks closely at not just the film industry as a business enterprise, which has become the current vogue, but at the product of the art form itself, what appears on the screen. In ways that have not previously been ventured, this book explores the intimate relationship between film and the economic and political texts that unfolded throughout the Depression. What results is a statement on the connections between economics and art, and more specifically, between near economic calamity and a burgeoning new art form. Films are revealed to be not just the product of a new assembly line process of production but negotiations with racial containment, with a negotiated censorship, with evolving gender roles, with a new and anxious isolationism, with a new distrust of traditional leadership and traditional mores, and with the ebb and flow of that era’s new social welfare politics.

ISBN 978-0-8386-4129-3

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