Social Documentaries of the Great Depression
Using films, photos, and texts we will explore what 1930s artists, authors, and journalists experienced in the communities around them during the Depression Era. Their impressions of social issues including poverty, class gaps, labor, government bailout plans, and a depleted agricultural landscape will form the backdrop for a critical discussion of the parallels between the Thirties and contemporary social issues related to today’s Financial Crisis. Along the way each student will create a digital portfolio of research data from sources such as the Library of Congress’s photo archive and St. Lawrence University’s extensive collection of photographic prints from the era in order to produce their own short documentary project. To accomplish this, students will learn how to closely analyze documentaries for their production and storytelling techniques, as well as how to engage with basic methods of field research. Foundational readings for this class will include Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, Timothy Egan’s The Worst Hard Time, Margaret Bourke-White and Erskine Caldwell’s You Have Seen Their Faces, and James Agee and Walker Evans’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.