ABOUT THIS BOOK
This collection of Robert Dawidoff's essays and journalism is peopled by the likes of the Founding Fathers, Fred Astaire, Henry and William James, Sophie Tucker, Trent Lott, and Cole Porter. Drawing together this unlikely cast of characters, Dawidoff probes into the role of outsider groups as well as intellectual and political elites in the formation of American culture.
As a scholar of intellectual and cultural history, Dawidoff takes the stance that historians ought to take an active role in our democratic culture, informing and participating in public discourse. He argues for a broad reach when it comes to cultural expression, resisting the polarization of formal intellectual history and folk or commercial popular culture. In his view, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Katherine Hepburn are equally worthy topics for a historian's consideration, provided that they are treated with equal seriousness of purpose and analytic rigor. In "The Gay Nineties" section that closes the book, he traces key events in the continual struggle for gay and lesbian civil rights and takes on such unresolved issues as safer sex, needle exchange programs to control HIV transmission, and the public controversy around the portrayal of gay and lesbian television characters.
Divided into sections that deal with the patriarchs of American political and intellectual culture, expressive culture, and a historian's public voice, this book is a model of engaged and engaging writing. Accessible and witty, Making History Matter will appeal to general and academic readers interested in American history as well as gay and lesbian political and cultural issues.