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Elective: Exiles and Modernism: European and Mexican Emigré Writers and Artists in Southern California


Admission requirements

Relevant bachelor’s degree.


This seminar examines the complex interactions between European and Mexican exiles, American culture, and the modernist movement. Whereas the Mexican exiles fled the dictatorship of President Calles (r. 1924-35), the European exiles comprised primarily German and Austrian writers, artists, and composers, many of whom came to southern California after fleeing Nazi persecution in the 1930s and 1940s. We will explore works by muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jose Clemente Orozco, writers Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, and Nathanael West, philosophers Theodor Adorno and Hans Horkheimer, composers Arnold Schoenberg and Hanns Eisler, and filmmakers Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder. Each played pivotal roles in the modernist movement in southern California, although their experiences with Americans and American culture were vastly different. At times they were forced to adopt hybrid identities, especially in confronting American nativism and anti-Communism. Main themes we will explore are Art and Politics, Modernism and Mass Culture, and Culture and Violence.

Course objectives

  • to draw connections between exile culture and the modernist movement in southern California by examining key texts, music and films within their historical and cultural contexts.

  • to introduce theoretical concepts of the exile experience

  • to develop students’ skills to conduct independent research

  • to develop students’ oral presentation skills through an in-class presentation

  • to apply their analytical, research, and writing skills in a research essay.


See timetable

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Oral presentation and discussion (30%) and

  • research essay (c. 4000 words; 70%).


A number of additional short texts will be made available through Blackboard, and research papers will be submitted to Blackboard via SafeAssign.

Reading list

  • Theodor Adorno, Philosophy of New Music, trans. Robert Hullot-Kentor (University of Minnesota Press, 2006), ISBN-10 0-8166-3666-4; ISBN-13: 978-0-8166-3666-2

  • Elliott Robert Barkan, And Still They Come: Immigrants and American Society, 1920 to the 1990s (Harlan Davidson, 1996), ISBN 0-88295-928-X

  • Bertolt Brecht, Galileo, English version by Charles Laughton (Grove Press, 1991, ISBN 0-8021-3059-3)

  • Nathanael West, Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust. (New Directions 2009); ISBN-13: 978-0811218221



Registration Studeren à la carte

Studeren a la carte