The Iron Curtain in the picture window: The Cold War home in American fiction and popular culture

Date of Completion

January 2010


American Studies|Business Administration, Marketing|Literature, American|Mass Communications




This dissertation argues that the post-war suburban boom and the dawning atomic age worked together to shift Americans' apocalyptic ideations away from their traditional Christian moorings and toward a modern faith in science and technology. As a result, suburban homes became mythic, apocalyptic spaces, at once offering both salvation and cataclysm. Organized as a tour of a typical suburban home, the dissertation examines domestic spaces represented in American literature, television, film, advertising, civil defense publications, and popular magazines between the years of 1945 and 1963. Readings of literary texts by Charles Beaumont, Ray Bradbury, John Cheever, Allen Ginsberg, Lorraine Hansberry, John Keats, Jack Kerouac, Arthur Miller, Walter M. Miller, Jr., Ann Petry, Sloan Wilson, John Updike, Philip Wylie, and Richard Yates are juxtaposed with discussions of Richard Nixon's political memoirs, images and narratives of domestic space in both Playboy and Good Housekeeping, and an episode of The Twilight Zone. The intersections among Cold War literature, architecture, and popular culture are discussed in order to establish the relationship between the unprecedented anxiety of an atomic moment and the home spaces of average Americans. ^