Fall 2007
Fully Enrolled

ARTS 634
Postwar/Postmodern: American Design from Retro to Neo-Retro


09/12/2007 - 12/12/2007
Wednesday 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM

Zilkha Gallery 106

This course explores industrial and household design in post-war America from a variety of perspectives to frame postwar culture and examine its icons--from Tupperware to tiki bars and bachelor pads, to automobiles, Barbie dolls, and household appliances. We will examine design using methodologies that fuse art historical analysis, social and business history, anthropology, feminism, and post-structuralism. How is the transformation of wartime industry to postwar consumption framed in light of sex and gender, race, and the Cold War? How did American culture and its consumer products function as weapons in the Cold War, from the Kitchen Debate to Hilton Hotels? At the end of this course, we will examine the growing phenomenon of postwar design templates as re-invented by contemporary designers in an attempt to understand why these icons of the baby boom have come to roost in contemporary culture.

Readings will be drawn from these and other sources: David Gartman, Auto Opium: A Social History of American Automobile Design; Thomas Hine, Populuxe; JoAnne Meyerowitz, Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America; Ellen Lupton, Mechanical Brides: Women and Machines from Home to Office; Lynn Spigel, Make Room for TV: Television and Family Ideal in Postwar America; Jane Pavitt, Brand.New; Jeffrey Meikle, American Plastic: A Cultural History; Chuihua Judy Chung, The Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping; Annabel Jane Wharton, Building the Cold War: Hilton International Hotels and Modern Architecture; Laura Shapiro, Something From the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America.

Students will be responsible for two short papers, one in-class formal presentation, and a final paper or project, in addition to mastery of the weekly readings.

This course is also listed as HUMS 602.

Students are expected to have done readings in advance of the first class meeting, and to have established access to JSTOR (Journal Storage). Please refer to online course syllabus for further details.

A syllabus for this course is available at:

Mel McCombie (B.A. Bryn Mawr College; M.A. Stanford University; Ph.D. University of Texas, Austin) is visiting assistant professor at Trinity College. Her recent publications include "Art Appreciation at Caesar's Palace, in "Cultural Production and Consumption: Readings in Popular Culture," edited by Lee Harrington (Blackwell, 2000).


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 8

Texts to purchase for this course:
David Gartman, AUTO OPIUM (Routledge), Paperback

Thomas Hine, POPULUXE (Overlook), Paperback

Ellen Lupton, MECHANICAL BRIDES (Smithsonian), Paperback

Laura Shapiro, SOMETHING FROM THE OVEN (Penguin), Paperback


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