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How Surrealism Shattered Social and Artistic Conventions in the European Interwar Period

By Oliva Hammond, VI Form

How Surrealism Shattered Social and Artistic Conventions in the European Interwar Period

Introduction

Creator: Dali, Salvador, 1904-; Date: 1929; Location: Spain

One of the most iconic Surrealist images is a single deep laceration into the eyeball of a subdued woman. It comes from Un Chien Andalou, a short movie by Salvador Dali and Luis Bunuel (Addendum 1).[2,3] The film exemplifies the horror and confusion that pervades Surrealism, but instead of employing it in a static painting, Dali and Bunuel prolong the enigmatic discomfort for over twenty minutes. Although the effect of the film may be horror, that was not its intent. Rather, the creators intended to forcefully open the minds of viewers to what they felt was the optimal perspective: the total loss of rationality and reason. Un Chien Andalou has many disturbing sequences of images, and, since it is a silent film, there is no explanation for the rapid changing in themes and characters.

In this movie, there are many unexplained phenomena that do not exist far outside the realm of our reality, but the film is still indecipherable when looked at with a traditional lens. This is the nature of Surrealism. In response to the turmoil of the First World War, there were certain groups that sought to change Western culture. These included the Dada artists, who created chaotic and unexplainable artwork, as well as avant-garde writers and musicians. Through their respective mediums, they took previous conventions and changed them to reflect the utter devastation that overcame Europe and made many question the rules of the existing order. Surrealists are perhaps the best-known example of a radical fringe group that worked toward the reversal of cultural norms during the interwar period. Just as in Un Chien Andalou, they coupled familiar concepts with disturbing alterations in order to provoke personal discomfort from their audiences. (more…)

The Presidential Bully Pulpit: Marijuana Policy and Rhetoric during the Nixon Administration

By Matt Walsh, VI Form

The Presidential Bully Pulpit: Marijuana Policy and Rhetoric during the Nixon Administration

I: Introduction

“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people,” claimed John Ehrlichman, a Domestic Affairs Aide under President Nixon. He continued:

We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be…against the war […], but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana […], and then criminalizing [it] heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.[1]

By the time of Richard Nixon’s election in 1968, marijuana had become more than just a psychoactive substance. For users, it was a symbol of rebellion. For socially conservative politicians like Nixon, it posed a threat to civilized society. In his 1968 campaign, Nixon promised to restore law and order to a country where civil rights and anti-Vietnam War protests had become commonplace. As president, Nixon launched a War on Drugs, which included both a political and rhetorical crusade against marijuana. The drug symbolized the anti-war movement, so Nixon maintained a strict anti-marijuana stance to demonstrate his scorn for the movement. However, without the work of Harry Anslinger, the director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) from 1930 to 1962, marijuana may not have gained the political clout that it possesses today.

A substantial amount of marijuana first entered the United States when Mexicans fleeing the Mexican Revolution crossed the border into the American Southwest and brought marijuana with them. Even though one Texan senator claimed that “All Mexicans are crazy, and [marijuana] makes them crazy,” the first major piece of drug enforcement legislation—the Harrison Narcotics Act in 1914—did not outlaw marijuana.[2] Furthermore, a U.S. government committee formed in 1926 to investigate the smoking of marijuana by off-duty soldiers stationed at the Panama Canal found that the drug had no “appreciable deleterious influence on the individual using it.”[3] Only some western and southern states, where marijuana use by Mexican immigrants was more pronounced, criminalized the plant. (more…)

Women’s Movement into the Medical Field in Late 19th Century America: Uncovering the Story of Elizabeth Blackwell

By Rosanna Zhao, VI Form

Women’s Movement into the Medical Field in Late 19th Century America: Uncovering the Story of Elizabeth Blackwell

Section I. Introduction

“Medicine is so broad a field, so closely interwoven with general interests, dealing as it does with all ages, sexes and classes, and yet of so personal a character in its individual appreciations, that it must be regarded as one of those great departments of work in which the cooperation of men and women is needed to fulfill all its requirements.”
Elizabeth Blackwell, 1849

During the nineteenth century, most middle class women did not have a voice or place in the workforce outside the home. Instead, they served as housewives, taking care of the family by doing domestic chores, gardening, or nurturing their husbands and children. However, as the women’s rights movement took root with the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, women began to fight for a role in the workplace and rebelled against the cult of domesticity. Although they faced obstacles along the way and gender equality in the workplace is still imperfect, there were many successes over the following 150 years.

Throughout the past several decades, the number of employed women increased drastically. Women in the labor force rose by an astonishing 257%.[1] In the medical field, for example, there were no accredited female doctors in the first half of the nineteenth century, but women now make up over a third of doctors in the United States. This remarkable change had roots going back to the mid-nineteenth century, when more women strove to join professional fields, especially the medical field. For centuries, women such as abortionists and midwives had practiced forms of medicine, but the general public did not consider them to be legitimate physicians. Therefore, not only were more women trying to become integrated into the medical field as professional physicians, but they were also striving to attend medical school in order to prove that their knowledge and ability as physicians were equal to those of men. In the early nineteenth century, no medical schools admitted women. In this biased environment, many trailblazers paved the way to allow more women to attend medical schools and become physicians. One of the most notable trail blazers during the mid-nineteenth century was Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to earn a medical degree in the United States. Throughout her journey, Blackwell faced many obstacles. However, she was able to become a physician because she was able to persevere through the many challenges in her away. (more…)

A Looming, Dreary Cloud to a Calamitous Crash: Roosevelt, Keynes, and Their Responses to the World’s Greatest Economic Catastrophe

By Matthew Gates, VI Form

A Looming, Dreary Cloud to a Calamitous Crash: Roosevelt, Keynes, and Their Responses to the World’s Greatest Economic Catastrophe

During the “Roaring Twenties,” the United States’ economy boomed; by 1923, the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to an unprecedented 2.4%.[1] In fact, at the end of the decade, the U.S. boasted the largest economy in the world.[2] The laissez-faire economic policies of Republican Presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover were extremely popular among business owners and Americans during the 1920s, as lowering taxes granted businesses more money to grow and put more money in the pockets of ordinary American citizens.[3] Additionally, Harding’s signing of the Fordney-McCumber Tariff Act, which imposed a tax on foreign goods, caused imported products to be far more expensive than domestic goods. As a result, the tariff incentivized citizens to buy American goods, increasing the profits of American businesses and resulting in an overwhelming expansion in production and jobs.[4] These Republican Presidents believed that government intervention not only hindered personal economic freedom, but they also believed it was wrong and a danger to freedom.[5]

(more…)

Minnie Vautrin and John Rabe: The Beacons of Humanity during the Nanking Massacre

By Amy Wang, VI Form

Minnie Vautrin and John Rabe: The Beacons of Humanity during the Nanking Massacre

Introduction

On a cold winter morning, about thirty soldiers came to a house. As soon as the landlord answered the door, the soldiers shot him with a revolver. When the landlord’s wife knelt down, asking why they killed her husband, they shot her as well. Upon entering the house, the soldiers dragged a female tenant Mrs. Hsia out from under a table, where she tried to hide with her one-year-old baby. After stripping and raping her, the soldiers bayoneted Hsia in the chest. They then stabbed the baby to death. Meanwhile, some soldiers went to the next room, where Mrs. Hsia’s parents and her two daughters, aged sixteen and fourteen, were hiding. They shot the grandmother when she tried to protect the girls. As the grandfather grasped the body of his wife, they killed him, too. Five to six soldiers raped the two girls and bayoneted both, along with their younger sister, who was also in that room. Before they left, the soldiers murdered the two children of the landlord, the elder bayoneted and the younger split down through the head with a sword.[1]

This was not a horror movie made for the sake of violence and gore. It was one of the countless cases of unspeakable atrocities that took place during the Nanking Massacre in the winter of 1937. (more…)

Red Guards During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution

By Justin Zhang, VI Form

Red Guards During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution 

Introduction

Following Japanese surrender in 1945, China emerged as the victor of the Second Sino-Japanese War after decades of Japanese occupation and eight years of total war. A new series of military struggle for control of China between the Nationalist forces under Chiang Kai-Shek and the Communists under Mao Zedong, who were reluctant co-belligerents allied during the Second Sino-Japanese War. After four years of military conflict, the Chinese Civil War concluded with the triumph of the Communists in 1949 with almost all of mainland China falling under communist control and the remainder of Nationalists escaping to the island of Taiwan.[1] After the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Mao initiated extensive cooperation with the Soviet Union under Stalin’s lead to transform China’s war-ravaged economy into a planned economy closely following the Soviet model.

As Nikita Khrushchev came into power after Stalin’s death in 1953, however, relations between the PRC and the Soviet Union worsened. Khrushchev began engaging in a process of de-Stalinization, criticizing many aspects of Stalin’s leadership, in particular, the confrontation of the West and his cult of personality.[2] Mao, who emulated Stalin’s style of leadership as he developed his own cult of personality, denounced de-Stalinization as Marxist revisionism, a pejorative term used to describe an abandonment of Marxist principles such as the worldwide struggle for communism as the Soviet Union sought peaceful coexistence with the West.[3] The term was later widely used during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution as a justification for the persecution of “counter-revolutionaries.” (more…)