Stefanie Strebel graduated from the University of Zurich in autumn 2009 with a Lizenziat/MA in English Language and Literature, Mass Communication and Geography, and is currently writing her PhD thesis at the English Seminar under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Martin Heusser. Her research focuses on the representation of the rise and fall of American suburbia in literature and the visual arts since the 1920s. In addition, she works as an editor and web publisher for an architectural website and online magazine.
PhD Project: Dead Ends and Decadence: American Suburbia in Literature and Film since the 1920s
American suburbs, having first been almost exclusive to the aristocracy and high society, have become a phenomenon of mass-production and artificial planning since World War II, and are now the home of more than fifty per cent of the country’s population. The purpose of my PhD project is to see how writers and cinematographers portray the growth and demise of American suburbia in the twentieth and twenty-first century. It investigates its steep rise and gradual fall, the mistakes that have been made in the creation of this landscape, the social impact of the built environment, as well as the blurry boundaries between Arcadia-like utopia and suburban nightmare. The vast majority of authors and directors – such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, John Updike, Richard Yates, John Cheever, Jeffrey Eugenides and Todd Solondz – display a certain sense of nostalgia towards this geographical and social sphere while simultaneously interspersing their texts with sharp and unmistakeable criticism, and it comes as no surprise that their recurring themes include decadence, ennui and desperation. When considering both actual developments and fictional representations, it appears as though American suburbia has failed as a form of community, mirroring the point of view of numerous urban planners and politicians.
The built environment, decadence, utopia and dystopia, popular culture and subcultures, concepts of home, nostalgia, mental geographies, modernism, post-modernism