Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Arts (DA)



First Advisor

Kimberly K. Porter


The post-World War II era in the United States, which ran from 1945 to 1970, has long been divided into two distinct periods; the late 1940s and 1950s and the 1960s. Out of this separation has come a view of the late 1940s and 1950s as a time dominated by a conservative conformist culture that did little to rival pre-war norms. On the other hand, the 1960s have come to be seen as a decade that witnessed true social revolution and thus should be considered responsible for shaping the social and cultural landscape of late twentieth-century America. While these views represented the dominant scholarly position on post-war era culture, a recent shift has brought this view into serious question. Through the work of historians such as Alan Petigny, the post-war era is no longer divided into two separate periods, but rather considered as a single swath of time in which the forces of Modernism began to influence society and affect change.

In a period that boasted numerous well-known philosophers and public intellectuals, Ayn Rand became one of the most widely-read and controversial thinkers of the post-war era. Despite being most well-known for her philosophical novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, Rand wrote numerous works of non-fiction including the 1971 publication, The Romantic Manifesto. In this collection of essays, which Rand wrote throughout the 1960s, she identified, like Petigny decades later, the aggressive march of Modernism in post-war America, which, in her estimation, had already ravaged Europe decades earlier, but was temporarily halted from fully taking over the United States because of the Second World War. In addition to identifying the war waged by Modernism against the established tradition of Romanticism in American culture, Rand also discussed the primary elements of literature, which could also be applied to film, and explained how one could determine whether or not a work of art represented Modernism or Romanticism.

This study has two main objectives. In terms of historical inquiry, the study will apply the conclusions of Rand and Petigny as to the influence of Modernism across the entire scope of the post-war period to American cinema in order to determine whether or not the art produced by this popular and influential medium reflected an early presence of Modernism or if, in keeping with the traditional view of the period, Modernism was in fact a product of the 1960s. In order to put the ideas of Rand and Petigny to the test, a series of films from a range of genres that were made across the entire post-war period will be analyzed using Rand's method in order to determine whether or not they represent modernist ideas and influence. However, because this study will be used to create a History 399 course, elements of pedagogy will also be considered. Thus, prior to the film analysis, the importance of intellectual history will be stressed specifically in terms of its applicability to sources, such as films, that were previously excluded from serious consideration in the field. After concluding the film analysis, the study will then examine the literature on using film in the undergraduate classroom in order to demonstrate its value as the centerpiece of an undergraduate course. Finally, this study will conclude with a description of the specific course construction including readings, assignments, grading and assessment.