Modern City, Wild Child: Helen Levitt's Photographs and Films


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art


This dissertation is an in depth study of Helen Levitt, the New York-based photographer and film-maker who documented her city's working class cultures. It focuses on the significance of Levitt's concern with the figure of the child and the activity of play, relating these core themes to multiple discourses on childhood that were under investigation in psychology and sociology. Focusing on her defining period of the late 1930s, the 1940s, and into the post-war decade, this study anayzes her work in relation to changing social constructions of childhood. It considers images of children that circulated within both "high" and "low" arenas of visual culture to establish claims about art and politics, vulnerability and violence, vitality and irrationality.