PAL: Perspectives in American Literature - A Research and Reference Guide - An Ongoing Project

© Paul P. Reuben

Appendix S: The American Dream

Outside Link: | M. L. King Sermon "The American Dream" |

Page Link: | Selected Bibliography 1980-1999 Selected Bibliography 2000-Present | MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |

Site Links: |Appendices: Index | Alphabetical List | Table Of Contents | Home Page | November 10, 2011


On the origin of the term "the American Dream"

E-Mail to H-Net List for American Studies: >Date: Monday, July 29, 2002 8:00 PM HST

>From: Rob Vaughan <>

In _Made in America: Self-Styled Success from Horatio Alger to Oprah Winfrey_ (University of Minnesota Press, 1992) Jeffrey Louis Decker writes of the origin of the term the "American Dream." He states that "the term was not put into print until 1931, when middle-brow historian James Truslow Adams coined and used it throughout the pages of a book titled _The Epic of America_. ... The American Dream is to be understood as an ethical doctrine that is symptomatic of a crisis in national identity during the thirties. The newly invented dream calls out for a supplement to the outmoded narrative of individual uplift, which had lost its moral capacity to guide the nation during the Depression." [92]

Adams was fully aware that the "American Dream" was a new term and had argued that his editor, Ellery Sedgwick, allow him to use it in the book's title. Sedgwick refused, allegedly saying "no red-blooded American would pay $3.50 for a dream." Adams argued that "Red-blooded Americans have always been willing to gamble their last peso on a dream ...." [n.154-155]

Clearly, the notion of such a dream as a core belief, even a guiding principle, predates Adams' first use of the term in the 1930s. But an interesting idea to kick around, I think, is that it was not until there emerged a profound sense that America had LOST something that the term was actually coined. What was it that folks in the Depression felt they had lost? Perhaps the same things that people still list when describing the American Dream today: individual freedom, social justice, the ability to participate in the consumer economy, and the hope of a better place for one's children. 

Selected Bibliography 1980-1999

Anderson, David L. The American dream in twentieth-century California fiction. 1983. Microfiche. PS283 .C2 A53

Bormann, Ernest G. The force of fantasy: restoring the American dream. Carbondale: Southern UP, 1985. BV3773 .B67

Carter, John. Solomon D. Butcher: photographing the American dream. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1985. TR652 .B86

Calder, Lendol G. Financing the American dream: a cultural history of consumer credit. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton UP, 1999. HG3756 .U54 C35

Calthorpe, Peter. The next American metropolis: ecology, community, and the American dream. NY: Princeton Architectural P, 1993. HT167 .C3

Chinoy, Ely. Automobile workers and the American dream. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1992. HD8039 .A82 U63

Comer, James P. Maggie's American dream: the life and times of a Black family. NY: New American Library, 1989. E185.97 .C68 C66

Cowley, Malcolm. The dream of the golden mountains: remembering the 1930s. NY: Viking P, 1980. PS3505.O956 Z464

Decker, Jeffrey L. Made in America: self-styled success from Horatio Alger to Oprah Winfrey. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1997. BJ1611 .D36

Dorinson, Joseph, and Joram Warmund. Jackie Robinson: race, sports, and the American dream. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1998. GV865 .R6 A34

Erenberg, Lewis A. Swingin' the dream: big band jazz and the rebirth of American culture. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1998. ML3518 .E74

Hartnett, Koula S. Zelda Fitzgerald and the Failure of the American Dream for Women. NY: Peter Lang, 1991.

Harvey, Sally P. Redefining the American Dream: The Novels of Willa Cather. Rutherford, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, 1995.

Hayden, Dolores. Redesigning the American dream: the future of housing, work, and family life. NY: W.W. Norton, 1984. HD7293 .H39

Hayes, Charles D. Beyond the American dream: lifelong learning and the search for meaning in a postmodern world. Wasilla, AK: Autodidactic P, 1998. LC32 .H385

Heskin, Allan D. Tenants and the American dream: ideology and the tenant movement. NY: Praeger, 1983. HD7288.85 .U62 C23

Horowitz, Ruth. Honor and the American dream: culture and identity in a Chicano community. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers UP, 1983. F548.9 .M5 H67

Korzenik, Diana. Drawn to art: a nineteenth-century American dream. Hanover, NH: UP of New England, 1985. N7477 .K63

Kotter, John P. The new rules: how to succeed in today's post-corporate world. NY: Free P, 1995. HD38.2 .K678

Long, Elizabeth. The American dream and the popular novel. Boston: Routledge & K. Paul, 1985. PS374 .B45 L65

MacLeod, Celeste. Horatio Alger, farewell: the end of the American Dream. NY: Seaview Books, 1980. HN90.S65 M32

Madsen, Richard. China and the American dream: a moral inquiry. Berkeley: U of California P, 1995. E183.8 .C5 M314

Maki, Mitchell T., Harry H. L. Kitano, and S. Megan Berthold. Achieving the impossible dream: how Japanese Americans obtained redress. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 1999. D769.8 .A6 M29

Marchand, Roland. Advertising the American dream: making way for modernity 1920-1940. Berkeley: U of California P, 1985. HF5813 .U6 M26

McLuhan, T. C. and William E. Kopplin. Dream tracks: the railroad and the American Indian 1890-1930. NY: Abrams, 1985. E78 .S7 M38

Messner, Steven F. and Richard Rosenfeld. Crime and the American dream. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub. Co., 1997. HV6022 .U6 M47

Muller, Gilbert H. New strangers in paradise: the immigrant experience and contemporary American fiction. Lexington: UP of Kentucky, 1999. PS374 .I48 M85

Nixon, Howard L. Sport and the American dream. NY: Leisure P, 1984. GV706.5 .N59

O'Kane, James M. The crooked ladder: gangsters, ethnicity, and the American dream. New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1992. HV6197 .U5 O43

Rivlin, Alice M. Reviving the American dream: the economy, the states & the federal government. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1992. HJ3258 .A2 R57

Ropers, Richard H. Persistent poverty: the American dream turned nightmare. NY: Plenum P, 1991. H110 .P6 R65

Rosenberg, Emily S. Spreading the American dream: American economic and cultural expansion, 1890-1945. NY: Hill and Wang, 1982. E744 .R82

Samuelson, Robert J. The good life and its discontents: the American dream in the age of entitlement, 1945-1995. NY: Vintage Books, 1997. HJ7543 .S26

Schneirov, Matthew. The dream of a new social order: popular magazines in America, 1893-1914. NY: Columbia UP, 1994. PN4877 .S36

Stern, Robert A. M. Pride of place: building the American dream. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1986. NA705 .S74

Terkel, Studs. The great divide: second thoughts on the American dream. NY: Pantheon Books, 1988. E839 .T47

Thompson, Hunter S. Fear and loathing in Las Vegas: a savage journey to the heart of the American dream. NY: Warner Books, 1982. PN4874 .T444 A33

Umphlett, Wiley L. Mythmakers of the American dream: the nostalgic vision in popular culture. NY:Cornwall Books, 1983. E169.1 .U52

Wright, Esmond. The American dream: from Reconstruction to Reagan. Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1996. E661 .W75

Selected Bibliography 2000-Present  

Bormann, Ernest G. The Force of Fantasy: Restoring the American Dream. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2001.

Christensen, Paul. West of the American Dream: An Encounter with Texas. College Station: Texas A&M UP, 2001.

Diggins, John P. Eugene O'Neill's America: Desire under Democracy. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2007.

Ellis, Robert R. They Dream Not of Angels but of Men: Homoeroticism, Gender, and Race in Latin American Autobiography. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 2002.

Gordon, Andrew M. Empire of Dreams: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Films of Steven Spielberg. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008.

Hume, Kathryn. American Dream, American Nightmare: Fictions since 1960. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2000.

Jain, Anupama. How to Be South Asian in America: Narratives of Ambivalence and Belonging. Philadelphia, PA: Temple UP, 2011.

Keller, Florian. Andy Kaufman: Wrestling with the American Dream. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2005.

Lennon, J. Michael. Norman Mailer's Letters on An American Dream, 1963-1969. Shavertown, PA: Sligo, 2004.

Lieu, Nhi T. The American Dream in Vietnamese. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2011.

López-Lozano, Miguel. Utopian Dreams, Apocalyptic Nightmares: Globalization in Recent Mexican and Chicano Narrative. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue UP, 2008.

Meizel, Katherine. Idolized: Music, Media, and Identity in American Idol. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2011.

Mensh, Elaine and Harry. Black, White, and Huckleberry Finn: Re-Imagining the American Dream. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P, 2000.

Jiang, Tsui-fen. The American Dream in African American, Asian American, and Hispanic American Drama: August Wilson, Frank Chin, and Luis Valdez. Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 2009.

Nance, Susan. How the Arabian Nights Inspired the American Dream, 1790&endash;1935. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 2009.

Winn, J. Emmett. The American Dream and Contemporary Hollywood Cinema. NY: Continuum, 2007.

Zeitz, Joshua. Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern. NY: Crown, 2006.

MLA Style Citation of this Web Page

Reuben, Paul P. "PAL: Appendix S: The American Dream." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. URL: (provide page date or date of your login). 

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