The forty years from 1880 to 1920 marked the golden age of the American theatre as a national institution, a time when actors moved from being players outside the boundaries of respectable society to being significant figures in the social landscape. As the only book that provides an overview of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century theatre,Actors and American Culture is also the only study of the legitimate stage that overtly attempts to connect actors and their work to the wider aspects of American life.
Few journeys have had as great an impact on American culture as Orville Wright's first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903—a twelve-second, one-hundred-twenty-foot trip that has captivated American thought and influenced American life ever since.
Although countless books for aviation buffs have appeared since World War II, none has attempted to place the airplane in its full social, cultural, and interdisciplinary context until now. The first book of its kind, The Airplane in American Culture presents essays by distinguished contributors including historians, literary scholars, scholars of American studies, art historians, and museum professionals that explore a range of topics, including the connections between flying and race and gender; aviation's role in forming perceptions of the landscape; the airplane's significance to the culture of war; and the influence of flight on literature and art.
A must-read collection for anyone fascinated by the airplane, The Airplane in American Culture represents a dramatic new approach to writing the history of aviation, and makes an important contribution to American social and cultural history.
Dominick A. Pisano is Curator of the Aeronautics Department at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution.
Reconsiders the centrality of a remarkable American writer of the ante- and postbellum periods
Elizabeth Stoddard was a gifted writer of fiction, poetry, and journalism; successfully published within her own lifetime; esteemed by such writers as William Dean Howells and Nathaniel Hawthorne; and situated at the epicenter of New York’s literary world. Nonetheless, she has been almost excluded from literary memory and importance. This book seeks to understand why. By reconsidering Stoddard’s life and work and her current marginal status in the evolving canon of American literary studies, it raises important questions about women’s writing in the 19th century and canon formation in the 20th century.
Essays in this study locate Stoddard in the context of her contemporaries, such as Dickinson and Hawthorne, while others situate her work in the context of major 19th-century cultural forces and issues, among them the Civil War and Reconstruction, race and ethnicity, anorexia and female invalidism, nationalism and localism, and incest. One essay examines the development of Stoddard’s work in the light of her biography, and others probe her stylistic and philosophic originality, the journalistic roots of her voice, and the elliptical themes of her short fiction. Stoddard’s lifelong project to articulate the nature and dynamics of woman’s subjectivity, her challenging treatment of female appetite and will, and her depiction of the complex and often ambivalent relationships that white middle-class women had to their domestic spaces are also thoughtfully considered.
The editors argue that the neglect of Elizabeth Stoddard’s contribution to American literature is a compelling example of the contingency of critical values and the instability of literary history. This study asks the question, “Will Stoddard endure?” Will she continue to drift into oblivion or will a new generation of readers and critics secure her tenuous legacy?
Jaime Osterman Alves / Margaret A. Amstutz / Lawrence Buell / Paul Crumbley / Jennifer Putzi / Lisa Radinovsky / Susanna Ryan / Julia Stern / Ellen Weinauer / Sandra A. Zagarell
American Culture comprises fifteen essays looking at the familiar and the less familiar in American society: urbanites in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, rural communities in the American West, Hispanics in Wisconsin, Samoans in California, the Amish, and the utopian religious communities of the Shakers and Oneida. The essays address a wide range of topics and a spectrum of occupations-miners, whalers, farmers, factory workers, physicians and nurses-to consider such questions as why some religious sects remain distinctive, separate, and viable; how groups use of such things as nicknames and family reunions to maintain ties within the community; how immigrant communities organize to sustain traditional cultural activities.
To lend weight to his charge that the public school teacher has been betrayed and gravity to his indictment of the educational establishment for that betrayal, Jurgen Herbst goes back to the beginnings of teacher education in America in the 1830s and traces its evolution up to the 1920s, by which time the essential damage had been done.
Initially, attempts were made to upgrade public school teaching to a genuine profession, but that ideal was gradually abandoned. In its stead, with the advent of newly emerging graduate schools of education in the early decades of the twentieth century, came the so-called professionalization of public education. At the expense of the training of elementary school teachers (mostly women), teacher educators shifted their attention to the turning out of educational "specialists" (mostly men)—administrators, faculty members at normal schools and teachers colleges, adult education teachers, and educational researchers.
Ultimately a history of the neglect of the American public school teacher, And Sadly Teach ends with a plea and a message that ring loud and clear. The plea: that the current reform proposals for American teacher education—the Carnegie and the Holmes reports—be heeded. The message: that the key to successful school reform lies in educating teacher’s true professionals and in acknowledging them as such in their classrooms.
In Animal Rites, Cary Wolfe examines contemporary notions of humanism and ethics by reconstructing a little known but crucial underground tradition of theorizing the animal from Wittgenstein, Cavell, and Lyotard to Lévinas, Derrida, Žižek, Maturana, and Varela. Through detailed readings of how discourses of race, sexuality, colonialism, and animality interact in twentieth-century American culture, Wolfe explores what it means, in theory and critical practice, to take seriously "the question of the animal."
The country’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its interventions around the world, and its global military presence make war, the military, and militarism defining features of contemporary American life. The armed services and the wars they fight shape all aspects of life—from the formation of racial and gendered identities to debates over environmental and immigration policy. Warfare and the military are ubiquitous in popular culture.
At War offers short, accessible essays addressing the central issues in the new military history—ranging from diplomacy and the history of imperialism to the environmental issues that war raises and the ways that war shapes and is shaped by discourses of identity, to questions of who serves in the U.S. military and why and how U.S. wars have been represented in the media and in popular culture.
More than fifty books debunking the religious claims of The Da Vinci Code have been published. Thisis the first book devoted to the fundamentally more interesting question: if those claims are so unfounded and erroneous, why have they resonated so strongly with millions of intelligent readers and filmgoers?
From the sexual abuse scandal that shook the foundations of the Catholic Church to the 9/11 terrorist attacks that cast a cloud over a troubled nation, Eric Plumer’s The Catholic Church and American Culture: Why the Claims of the DaVinci Code Struck a Chord investigates the contemporary events, ideas, and movements that fostered Dan Brown’s unprecedented dominance of best-seller lists and dinner-table conversation. This ambitious book considers the feminist movement, radical individualism, twelve-step programs, the authority of science and psychology, and other cultural developments that paved the way for The Da Vinci Code craze. It also reflects on the recent publication of the Gnostic Gospels, including the Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Plumer’s engaging book is sure to stimulate further discussion about the role of religion in contemporary life.
Conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker have fascinated the world since the nineteenth century. In her captivating book, Chang and Eng Reconnected, Cynthia Wu traces the “Original Siamese Twins” through the terrain of American culture, showing how their inseparability underscored tensions between individuality and collectivity in the American popular imagination.
Using letters, medical documents and exhibits, literature, art, film, and family lore, Wu provides a trans-historical analysis that presents the Bunkers as both a material presence and as metaphor. She also shows how the twins figure in representations of race, disability, and science in fictional narratives about nation building.
As astute entrepreneurs, the twins managed their own lives; nonetheless, as Chang and Eng Reconnected shows, American culture has always viewed them through the multiple lenses of difference.
In the late 1800s, “Arctic Fever” swept across the nation as dozens of American expeditions sailed north to the Arctic to find a sea route to Asia and, ultimately, to stand at the North Pole. Few of these missions were successful, and many men lost their lives en route. Yet failure did little to dampen the enthusiasm of new explorers or the crowds at home that cheered them on. Arctic exploration, Michael F. Robinson argues, was an activity that unfolded in America as much as it did in the wintry hinterland. Paying particular attention to the perils facing explorers at home, The Coldest Crucible examines their struggles to build support for the expeditions before departure, defend their claims upon their return, and cast themselves as men worthy of the nation’s full attention. In so doing, this book paints a new portrait of polar voyagers, one that removes them from the icy backdrop of the Arctic and sets them within the tempests of American cultural life.
With chronological chapters featuring emblematic Arctic explorers—including Elisha Kent Kane, Charles Hall, and Robert Peary—The Coldest Crucible reveals why the North Pole, a region so geographically removed from Americans, became an iconic destination for discovery.
Coming of Age is about college as students really know it and--often--love it. To write this remarkable account, Michael Moffatt did what anthropologists usually do in more distant cultures: he lived among the natives. His findings are sometimes disturbing, potentially controversial, but somehow very believable. Coming of Age is a vivid slice of life of what Moffatt saw and heard in the dorms of a typical state university, Rutgers, in the 1980s. It is full of student voices: naive and worldy-wise, vulgar and polite, cynical, humorous, and sometimes even idealistic. But it is also about American culture more generally: individualism, friendship, community, bureaucracy, diversity, race, sex, gender, intellect, work, and play. As an example of an ethnography written about an anthropologist's own culture, this book is an uncommon one. As a new and revealing perspective on the much-studied American college student, it is unique.
JFK, Karl Marx, the Pope, Aristotle Onassis, Queen Elizabeth II, Howard Hughes, Fox Mulder, Bill Clinton--all have been linked to vastly complicated global (or even galactic) intrigues. In this enlightening tour of conspiracy theories, Mark Fenster guides readers through this shadowy world and analyzes its complex role in American culture and politics.
Fenster argues that conspiracy theories are a form of popular political interpretation and contends that understanding how they circulate through mass culture helps us better understand our society as a whole. To that end, he discusses Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style in American Politics, the militia movement, The X-Files, popular Christian apocalyptic thought, and such artifacts of suspicion as The Turner Diaries, the Illuminatus! trilogy, and the novels of Richard Condon.
Fenster analyzes the "conspiracy community" of radio shows, magazine and book publishers, Internet resources, and role-playing games that promote these theories. In this world, the very denial of a conspiracy's existence becomes proof that it exists, and the truth is always "out there." He believes conspiracy theory has become a thrill for a bored subculture, one characterized by its members' reinterpretation of "accepted" history, their deep cynicism about contemporary politics, and their longing for a utopian future.
Fenster's progressive critique of conspiracy theories both recognizes the secrecy and inequities of power in contemporary politics and economics and works toward effective political engagement. Probing conspiracy theory's tendencies toward scapegoating, racism, and fascism, as well as Hofstadter's centrist acceptance of a postwar American "consensus," he advocates what conspiracy theory wants but cannot articulate: a more inclusive, engaging political culture.
"Fenster, a lone writer (the literary equivalent of a lone gunman, perhaps), segues from the novels of Thomas Pynchon to the Clinton Death List. . . . Conspiracy Theories is a dangerous book. I suspect 'they' (and you know who I mean, of course) will take care of this lone writer any day now."--Bookforum
"Fenster makes a powerful argument for regarding conspiracism as an integral product of the political system, reflecting inadequacies the establishment itself is blind to and expressing strong desires for the realization of frustrated ideals. Conspiracy Theories is a fascinating look at an important, little-studied topic. Informative and thought-provoking." --Philadelphia City Paper
"Fenster culls the liveliest counterintelligences out there--the Michigan Militia, religious millennialists, Chris Carter, even Oliver Stone--and sets them up as the last idealists. They might be obsessive and maniacal, but they're after a transparent political system, where big business and the government can be held accountable. Their 'paranoid style,' according to Fenster, is just old-school populism refitted for the media age." --Voice Literary Supplement
"Fenster makes a powerful argument for regarding conspiracism as an integral product of the political system, reflecting inadequacies the establishment itself is blind to and expressing strong desires for the realization of frustrated ideals. Conspiracy Theories is a fascinating look at an important, little-studied topic. Informative and thought-provoking." Philadelphia City Paper
"Fenster's careful examination of conspiratorial beliefs as evidence by right-wing groups, by various media, and even by those who devise such theories as a form of ludic or satiric endeavor (like Robert Anton Wilson) is revealing. And his articulation of the set of political-rather than pathological-reasons for their behavior is salutary." --American Book Review
"Fenster's extensive and impressive research provided a means of coming to terms with the radical disjunction between the interpretive framework which I used to understand events such as the one at Littleton, and a framework at odds with my own which was now confronting me on a daily basis." --Canadian Journal of Communication
"In this lively and wide-ranging critique, Fenster argues that conspiracy theories are attempts to engage in a more inclusive political culture." --Religious Studies Review
"Mark Fenster has provided a solid and illuminating study of the public's fascination with conspiracy theories and sets forth a stimulating correlation between the popularity of such theories and the social and political values of our society. This is a comprehensive and intriguing analysis of our often obsessive interest in conspiracy theories." --Gerald Posner, author of Killing the Dream : James Earl Ray and the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Case Closed : Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK
"I find the issue of conspiracy theory compelling and appreciate Fenster's fruitful approach to what has been mysteriously ignored by the academy." --Barbie Zelizer, author of Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and the Shaping of Collective Memory
"Fenster shines a powerful light on the fantasies of secrecy that pervade American culture, illuminating both the way they originate and how they work. His analysis is theoretically acute, his criticism of previous scholarly studies is compelling, and he offers razor-sharp readings of an impressive array of movements, events, and cultural practices. He stands out, above all, for his ability to capture the power and appeal of conspiratorial understandings of politics even as he explains their fundamental political limitations. The only thing that can keep this book from having the impact it deserves is a vast, academic conspiracy." --Mark T. Reinhardt, Williams College
Mark Fenster received his Ph.D. in communication from the University of Illinois and his law degree from Yale University. He currently lives in Denver.
The Creolization of American Culture examines the artworks, letters, sketchbooks, music collection, and biography of the painter William Sidney Mount (1807–1868) as a lens through which to see the multiethnic antebellum world that gave birth to blackface minstrelsy. As a young man living in the multiethnic working-class community of New York's Lower East Side, Mount took part in the black-white musical interchange his paintings depict. An avid musician and tune collector as well as an artist, he was the among the first to depict vernacular fiddlers, banjo players, and dancers precisely and sympathetically. His close observations and meticulous renderings provide rich evidence of performance techniques and class-inflected paths of musical apprenticeship that connected white and black practitioners.
Looking closely at the bodies and instruments Mount depicts in his paintings as well as other ephemera, Christopher J. Smith traces the performance practices of African American and Anglo-European music-and-dance traditions while recovering the sounds of that world. Further, Smith uses Mount's depictions of black and white music-making to open up fresh perspectives on cross-ethnic cultural transference in Northern and urban contexts, showing how rivers, waterfronts, and other sites of interracial interaction shaped musical practices by transporting musical culture from the South to the North and back. The "Africanization" of Anglo-Celtic tunes created minstrelsy's musical "creole synthesis," a body of melodic and rhythmic vocabularies, repertoires, tunes, and musical techniques that became the foundation of American popular music.
Reading Mount's renderings of black and white musicians against a background of historical sites and practices of cross-racial interaction, Smith offers a sophisticated interrogation and reinterpretation of minstrelsy, significantly broadening historical views of black-white musical exchange.
A trenchant examination of epic shifts in American thought by a major scholar in the field.
In the 1940s, American thought experienced a cataclysmic paradigm shift. Before then, national ideology was shaped by American exceptionalism and bourgeois nationalism: elites saw themselves as the children of a homogeneous nation standing outside the history and culture of the Old World. This view repressed the cultures of those who did not fit the elite vision: people of color, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants. David W. Noble, a preeminent figure in American studies, inherited this ideology. However, like many who entered the field in the 1940s, he rejected the ideals of his intellectual predecessors and sought a new, multicultural, postnational scholarship. Throughout his career, Noble has examined this rupture in American intellectual life. In Death of a Nation, he presents the culmination of decades of thought in a sweeping treatise on the shaping of contemporary American studies and an eloquent summation of his distinguished career.
Exploring the roots of American exceptionalism, Noble demonstrates that it was a doomed ideology. Capitalists who believed in a bounded nationalism also depended on a boundless, international marketplace. This contradiction was inherently unstable, and the belief in a unified national landscape exploded in World War II. The rupture provided an opening for alternative narratives as class, ethnicity, race, and region were reclaimed as part of the nation's history. Noble traces the effects of this shift among scholars and artists, and shows how even today they struggle to imagine an alternative postnational narrative and seek the meaning of local and national cultures in an increasingly transnational world. While Noble illustrates the challenges that the paradigm shift created, he also suggests solutions that will help scholars avoid romanticized and reductive approaches toward the study of American culture in the future.
David W. Noble is professor of American studies at the University of Minnesota. He is the author of numerous books, including The End of American History (1985) and The Free and the Unfree: A Progressive History of the United States (with Peter N. Carroll, 2001).
Throughout the Great Recession American artists and public art endowments have had to fight for government support to keep themselves afloat. It wasn’t always this way. At its height in 1935, the New Deal devoted $27 million—roughly $461 million today—to supporting tens of thousands of needy artists, who used that support to create more than 100,000 works. Why did the government become so involved with these artists, and why weren’t these projects considered a frivolous waste of funds, as surely many would be today?
In Democratic Art, Sharon Musher explores these questions and uses them as a springboard for an examination of the role art can and should play in contemporary society. Drawing on close readings of government-funded architecture, murals, plays, writing, and photographs, Democratic Art examines the New Deal’s diverse cultural initiatives and outlines five perspectives on art that were prominent at the time: art as grandeur, enrichment, weapon, experience, and subversion. Musher argues that those engaged in New Deal art were part of an explicitly cultural agenda that sought not just to create art but to democratize and Americanize it as well. By tracing a range of aesthetic visions that flourished during the 1930s, this highly original book outlines the successes, shortcomings, and lessons of the golden age of government funding for the arts.
Dress in American Culture
Edited by Patricia A. Cunningham and Susan Voso Lab University of Wisconsin Press, 1993 Library of Congress GT605.D75 1993 | Dewey Decimal 391.00904
Early Americans accommodated, adapted, and manipulated their clothing to adjust to their physical and social environment. This book focuses on the relationship of dress to the struggle of indigenous and immigrant Americans to fill expected and unexpected needs and express political ideologies and ethnic identity. In doing so the contributors hope to prompt readers to reconsider the place of dress in the interpretation of American culture. The casual reader of this book of essays may be surprised to learn that it has little to do with different styles of clothing or the vagaries of fashion.
The contributors reveal the politics, or power, of dress, especially in its function as a symbol of American ideals, and examine changes in clothing behavior that occurred as Americans faced new experiences.
With roots in eugenics and other social-control programs, modern American environmentalism is not always as progressive as we would like to think. In The Ecological Other, Sarah Jaquette Ray examines the ways in which environmentalism can create social injustice through discourses of the body.
Ray investigates three categories of ecological otherness: people with disabilities, immigrants, and Native Americans. Extending recent work in environmental justice ecocriticism, Ray argues that the expression of environmental disgust toward certain kinds of bodies draws problematic lines between ecological “subjects”—those who are good for and belong in nature—and ecological “others”—those who are threats to or out of place in nature. Ultimately, The Ecological Other urges us to be more critical of how we use nature as a tool of social control and to be careful about the ways in which we construct our arguments to ensure its protection.
The book challenges long-standing assumptions in environmentalism and will be of interest to those in environmental literature and history, American studies, disability studies, and Native American studies, as well as anyone concerned with issues of environmental justice.
The Female Complaint is part of Lauren Berlant’s groundbreaking “national sentimentality” project charting the emergence of the U.S. political sphere as an affective space of attachment and identification. In this book, Berlant chronicles the origins and conventions of the first mass-cultural “intimate public” in the United States, a “women’s culture” distinguished by a view that women inevitably have something in common and are in need of a conversation that feels intimate and revelatory. As Berlant explains, “women’s” books, films, and television shows enact a fantasy that a woman’s life is not just her own, but an experience understood by other women, no matter how dissimilar they are. The commodified genres of intimacy, such as “chick lit,” circulate among strangers, enabling insider self-help talk to flourish in an intimate public. Sentimentality and complaint are central to this commercial convention of critique; their relation to the political realm is ambivalent, as politics seems both to threaten sentimental values and to provide certain opportunities for their extension.
Pairing literary criticism and historical analysis, Berlant explores the territory of this intimate public sphere through close readings of U.S. women’s literary works and their stage and film adaptations. Her interpretation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and its literary descendants reaches from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Toni Morrison’s Beloved, touching on Shirley Temple, James Baldwin, and The Bridges of Madison County along the way. Berlant illuminates different permutations of the women’s intimate public through her readings of Edna Ferber’s Show Boat; Fannie Hurst’s Imitation of Life; Olive Higgins Prouty’s feminist melodrama Now, Voyager; Dorothy Parker’s poetry, prose, and Academy Award–winning screenplay for A Star Is Born; the Fay Weldon novel and Roseanne Barr film The Life and Loves of a She-Devil; and the queer, avant-garde film Showboat 1988–The Remake. The Female Complaint is a major contribution from a leading Americanist.
Forbidden Signs explores American culture from the mid-nineteenth century to 1920 through the lens of one striking episode: the campaign led by Alexander Graham Bell and other prominent Americans to suppress the use of sign language among deaf people.
The ensuing debate over sign language invoked such fundamental questions as what distinguished Americans from non-Americans, civilized people from "savages," humans from animals, men from women, the natural from the unnatural, and the normal from the abnormal. An advocate of the return to sign language, Baynton found that although the grounds of the debate have shifted, educators still base decisions on many of the same metaphors and images that led to the misguided efforts to eradicate sign language.
"Baynton's brilliant and detailed history, Forbidden Signs, reminds us that debates over the use of dialects or languages are really the linguistic tip of a mostly submerged argument about power, social control, nationalism, who has the right to speak and who has the right to control modes of speech."—Lennard J. Davis, The Nation
"Forbidden Signs is replete with good things."—Hugh Kenner, New York Times Book Review
Familiar landmarks in hundreds of American towns, Carnegie libraries today seem far from controversial. In Free to All, however, Abigail A. Van Slyck shows that the classical façades and symmetrical plans of these buildings often mask a complex and contentious history.
"The whole story is told here in this book. Carnegie's wishes, the conflicts among local groups, the architecture, development of female librarians. It's a rich and marvelous story, lovingly told."—Alicia Browne, Journal of American Culture
"This well-written and extensively researched work is a welcome addition to the history of architecture, librarianship, and philanthropy."—Joanne Passet, Journal of American History
"Van Slyck's book is a tremendous contribution for its keenness of scholarship and good writing and also for its perceptive look at a familiar but misunderstood icon of the American townscape."—Howard Wight Marshall, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians
"[Van Slyck's] reading of the cultural coding implicit in the architectural design of the library makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the limitations of the doctrine 'free to all.'"—Virginia Quarterly Review
Cheerleading has become a staple in American culture. The cheerleader straddles two contradictory symbolic poles. This individual is an instantly recognized figure representing youthful attractiveness, leadership, and popularity. Yet, for many, the cheerleader is seen as epitomizing mindless enthusiasm, shallow boosterism, and objectified sexuality. This contradictory view is explored in this extensively documented book.
In this capacious and energetic volume, Ira Sadoff argues that poets live and write within history, our artistic values always reflecting attitudes about both literary history and culture at large. History Matters does not return to the culture war that reduced complex arguments about human nature, creativity, identity, and interplay between individual and collective identity to slogans. Rather, Sadoff peels back layers of clutter to reveal the important questions at the heart of any complex and fruitful discussion about the connections between culture and literature.
Much of our most adventurous writing has occurred at history’s margins, simultaneously making use of and resisting tradition. By tracking key contemporary poets—including John Ashbery, Olena Kaltyiak Davis, Louise Glück, Czeslaw Milosz, Frank O’Hara, and C. K. Williams—as well as musing on jazz and other creative enterprises, Sadoff investigates the lively poetic art of those who have grappled with late twentieth-century attitudes about history, subjectivity, contingency, flux, and modernity. In plainspoken writing, he probes the question of the poet’s capacity to illuminate and universalize truth. Along the way, we are called to consider how and why art moves and transforms human beings.
When Americans today think of the Religious Society of Friends, better known as Quakers, they may picture the smiling figure on boxes of oatmeal. But since their arrival in the American colonies in the 1650s, Quakers’ spiritual values and social habits have set them apart from other Americans. And their example—whether real or imagined—has served as a religious conscience for an expanding nation.
Portrayals of Quakers—from dangerous and anarchic figures in seventeenth-century theological debates to moral exemplars in twentieth-century theater and film (Grace Kelly in High Noon, for example)—reflected attempts by writers, speechmakers, and dramatists to grapple with the troubling social issues of the day. As foils to more widely held religious, political, and moral values, members of the Society of Friends became touchstones in national discussions about pacifism, abolition, gender equality, consumer culture, and modernity.
Spanning four centuries, Imaginary Friends takes readers through the shifting representations of Quaker life in a wide range of literary and visual genres, from theological debates, missionary work records, political theory, and biography to fiction, poetry, theater, and film. It illustrates the ways that, during the long history of Quakerism in the United States, these “imaginary” Friends have offered a radical model of morality, piety, and anti-modernity against which the evolving culture has measured itself.
In a groundbreaking work of “New Americanist” studies, John R. Eperjesi explores the cultural and economic formation of the Unites States relationship to China and the Pacific Rim in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Eperjesi examines a variety of texts to explore the emergence of what Rob Wilson has termed the “American Pacific.” Eperjesi shows how works ranging from Frank Norris’ The Octopus to the Journal of the American Asiatic Association, from the Socialist newspaper Appeal to Reason to the travel writings of Jack and Charmain London, and from Maxine Hong Kingston’s China Men to Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon—and the cultural dynamics that produced them—helped construct the myth of the American Pacific. By construing the Pacific Rim as a unified region binding together the territorial United States with the areas of Asia and the Pacific, he also demonstrates that the logic of the imperialist imaginary suggested it was not only proper but even incumbent upon the United States to exercise both political and economic influence in the region. As Donald E. Pease notes in his foreword, “by reading foreign policy and economic policy as literature, and by reconceptualizing works of American literature as extenuations of foreign policy and economic theory,” Eperjesi makes a significant contribution to studies of American imperialism.
In this richly detailed account of mass media images, David Ruth looks at Al Capone and other "invented" gangsters of the 1920s and 1930s. The subject of innumerable newspaper and magazine articles, scores of novels, and hundreds of Hollywood movies, the gangster was a compelling figure for Americans preoccupied with crime and the social turmoil it symbolized. Ruth shows that the media gangster was less a reflection of reality than a projection created from Americans' values, concerns, and ideas about what would sell.
We see efficient criminal executives demonstrating the multifarious uses of organization; dapper, big-spending gangsters highlighting the promises and perils of the emerging consumer society; and gunmen and molls guiding an uncertain public through the shifting terrain of modern gender roles. In this fascinating study, Ruth reveals how the public enemy provides a far-ranging critique of modern culture.
The Jazz Republic examines jazz music and the jazz artists who shaped Germany’s exposure to this African American art form from 1919 through 1933. Jonathan O. Wipplinger explores the history of jazz in Germany as well as the roles that music, race (especially Blackness), and America played in German culture and follows the debate over jazz through the fourteen years of Germany’s first democracy. He explores visiting jazz musicians including the African American Sam Wooding and the white American Paul Whiteman and how their performances were received by German critics and artists. The Jazz Republic also engages with the meaning of jazz in debates over changing gender norms and jazz’s status between paradigms of high and low culture. By looking at German translations of Langston Hughes’s poetry, as well as Theodor W. Adorno’s controversial rejection of jazz in light of racial persecution, Wipplinger examines how jazz came to be part of German cultural production more broadly in both the US and Germany, in the early 1930s.
Using a wide array of sources from newspapers, modernist and popular journals, as well as items from the music press, this work intervenes in the debate over the German encounter with jazz by arguing that the music was no mere “symbol” of Weimar’s modernism and modernity. Rather than reflecting intra-German and/or European debates, it suggests that jazz and its practitioners, African American, white American, Afro-European, German and otherwise, shaped Weimar culture in a central way.
Beyond their status as classic children’s stories, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books play a significant role in American culture that most people cannot begin to appreciate. Millions of children have sampled the books in school; played out the roles of Laura and Mary; or visited Wilder homesites with their parents, who may be fans themselves. Yet, as Anita Clair Fellman shows, there is even more to this magical series with its clear emotional appeal: a covert political message that made many readers comfortable with the resurgence of conservatism in the Reagan years and beyond.
In Little House, Long Shadow, a leading Wilder scholar offers a fresh interpretation of the Little House books that examines how this beloved body of children’s literature found its way into many facets of our culture and consciousness—even influencing the responsiveness of Americans to particular political views. Because both Wilder and her daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, opposed the New Deal programs being implemented during the period in which they wrote, their books reflect their use of family history as an argument against the state’s protection of individuals from economic uncertainty. Their writing emphasized the isolation of the Ingalls family and the family’s resilience in the face of crises and consistently equated self-sufficiency with family acceptance, security, and warmth.
Fellman argues that the popularity of these books—abetted by Lane’s overtly libertarian views—helped lay the groundwork for a negative response to big government and a positive view of political individualism, contributing to the acceptance of contemporary conservatism while perpetuating a mythic West. Beyond tracing the emergence of this influence in the relationship between Wilder and her daughter, Fellman explores the continuing presence of the books—and their message—in modern cultural institutions from classrooms to tourism, newspaper editorials to Internet message boards.
Little House, Long Shadow shows how ostensibly apolitical artifacts of popular culture can help explain shifts in political assumptions. It is a pioneering look at the dissemination of books in our culture that expands the discussion of recent political transformations—and suggests that sources other than political rhetoric have contributed to Americans’ renewed appreciation of individualist ideals.
Our nation began with the simple phrase, “We the People.” But who were and are “We”? Who were we in 1776, in 1865, or 1968, and is there any continuity in character between the we of those years and the nearly 300 million people living in the radically different America of today?
With Made in America, Claude S. Fischer draws on decades of historical, psychological, and social research to answer that question by tracking the evolution of American character and culture over three centuries. He explodes myths—such as that contemporary Americans are more mobile and less religious than their ancestors, or that they are more focused on money and consumption—and reveals instead how greater security and wealth have only reinforced the independence, egalitarianism, and commitment to community that characterized our people from the earliest years. Skillfully drawing on personal stories of representative Americans, Fischer shows that affluence and social progress have allowed more people to participate fully in cultural and political life, thus broadening the category of “American” —yet at the same time what it means to be an American has retained surprising continuity with much earlier notions of American character.
Firmly in the vein of such classics as The Lonely Crowd and Habits of the Heart—yet challenging many of their conclusions—Made in America takes readers beyond the simplicity of headlines and the actions of elites to show us the lives, aspirations, and emotions of ordinary Americans, from the settling of the colonies to the settling of the suburbs.
Jeffrey Dahmer. Ted Bundy. John Wayne Gacy. Over the past thirty years, serial killers have become iconic figures in America, the subject of made-for-TV movies and mass-market paperbacks alike. But why do we find such luridly transgressive and horrific individuals so fascinating? What compels us to look more closely at these figures when we really want to look away? Natural Born Celebrities considers how serial killers have become lionized in American culture and explores the consequences of their fame.
David Schmid provides a historical account of how serial killers became famous and how that fame has been used in popular media and the corridors of the FBI alike. Ranging from H. H. Holmes, whose killing spree during the 1893 Chicago World's Fair inspired The Devil in the White City, right up to Aileen Wuornos, the lesbian prostitute whose vicious murder of seven men would serve as the basis for the hit film Monster, Schmid unveils a new understanding of serial killers by emphasizing both the social dimensions of their crimes and their susceptibility to multiple interpretations and uses. He also explores why serial killers have become endemic in popular culture, from their depiction in The Silence of the Lambs and The X-Files to their becoming the stuff of trading cards and even Web sites where you can buy their hair and nail clippings.
Bringing his fascinating history right up to the present, Schmid ultimately argues that America needs the perversely familiar figure of the serial killer now more than ever to manage the fear posed by Osama bin Laden since September 11.
"This is a persuasively argued, meticulously researched, and compelling examination of the media phenomenon of the 'celebrity criminal' in American culture. It is highly readable as well."—Joyce Carol Oates
The most comprehensive account available of the rise and fall of the Black Power Movement and of its dramatic transformation of both African-American and larger American culture. With a gift for storytelling and an ear for street talk, William Van Deburg chronicles a decade of deep change, from the armed struggles of the Black Panther party to the cultural nationalism of artists and writers creating a new aesthetic. Van Deburg contends that although its tactical gains were sometimes short-lived, the Black Power movement did succeed in making a revolution—one in culture and consciousness—that has changed the context of race in America.
"New Day in Babylon is an extremely intelligent synthesis, a densely textured evocation of one of American history's most revolutionary transformations in ethnic group consciousness."—Bob Blauner, New York Times
Winner of the Gustavus Myers Center Outstanding Book Award, 1993
For much of his career, Johnny Cash opened his shows with the tagline, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash." This introduction seemed unnecessary, since everyone in the audience knew who he was -- the famous musical artist whose career spanned almost five decades, whose troubled life on and off the stage received wide publicity, and whose cragged face seemed to express a depth and intensity not found in any other artist, living or dead.
For Cash, as for many celebrities, renown was the product of both hard work and luck. Often a visionary and always a tireless performer, he was subject to a whirlwind of social, economic, and cultural countercurrents. Nine Choices explores the tension between Cash's desire for mainstream success, his personal struggles with alcohol and drugs, and an ever-changing cultural landscape that often circumscribed his options.
Drawing on interviews, archival research, and textual analysis, Jonathan Silverman focuses on Cash's personal and artistic choices as a way of understanding his life, his impact on American culture, and the ways in which that culture in turn shaped him. Cash made decisions about where he would live, what he would play, who would produce his albums, whether he would support the Vietnam War, and even if he would flip his famous "bird" -- the iconic image of Cash giving the finger which is now plastered on posters and T-shirts everywhere -- in the context of cultural forces both visible and opaque. He made other decisions in consultation with a variety of people, many of whom were chiefly concerned with the reaction of his audiences.
Less a conventional biography than a study of the making of an identity, Nine Choices explores how Johnny Cash sought to define who he was, how he was perceived, and what he signified through a series of self-conscious actions. The result, Silverman shows, was a life that was often tumultuous but never uninteresting.
In its heyday Motown Records was a household word, one of the most famous and successful black-owned businesses in American history, and, arguably, the most significant of all American independent record labels.
How it got to be that way and how it changed the face of American popular culture are the subjects of this concise study of Berry Gordy's phenomenal creation. Author Gerald Early tells the story of the cultural and historical conditions that made Motown Records possible, including the dramatic shifts in American popular music of the time, changes in race relations and racial attitudes, and the rise of a black urban population. Early concentrates in particular on the 1960s and 70s, when Motown had its biggest impact on American musical tastes and styles.
With this revised and expanded edition, the author provides an up-to-date bibliography of the major books that have been written about Motown Records specifically, and black American music generally. Plus, new appendices feature interviews with four of the major creators of the Motown Sound: Berry Gordy, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and Marvin Gaye.
Whether loved or reviled, the New York Yankees have had an impact on American culture that extends well beyond baseball. Since the early twentieth century, movies, novels, memoirs, pop songs, and even TV sitcoms have either dealt directly with the Bronx club and its star players or incorporated key elements of Yankee iconography. In Pinstripe Nation, Will Bishop explores the myriad ways in which the Yankees and their successes (and spectacular failures) became interwoven with the nation’s larger cultural narrative.
In 1920, with their acquisition of Babe Ruth, the Yankees rose to prominence. With his power-hitting style attracting legions of new fans, the “Great Bambino” became a national hero of the Roaring Twenties. In contrast to Ruth’s flamboyance, his less flashy successors Lou Gehrig and Joe DiMaggio captured the spirit of striving and courage that carried America through the Depression and WWII years. The Pride of the Yankees, a popular movie celebrating Gehrig’s career, and the Hemingway novella The Old Man and the Sea, whose protagonist reveres DiMaggio, typified the trend.
Mirroring the nation’s postwar swagger and confidence, the club of the Mickey Mantle–era remained hugely popular, but “Yankee hating” set in as well. Novels like Mark Harris’s The Southpaw and Douglass Wallop’s The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant signified a widespread resentment of the team’s outsized dominance. Amid the national turmoil of the 1960s, the Yankees also went into decline. In the following decades, as player salaries soared and team infighting grabbed headlines, the once-glowing portrayals of the team gave way to tell-all books like Ball Four and The Bronx Zoo. Yet, as this informative and entertaining book amply shows, the Yankees have, through all their ups and downs, retained a hold on the American imagination unmatched by any other sports franchise.
Queering the Color Line transforms previous understandings of how homosexuality was “invented” as a category of identity in the United States beginning in the late nineteenth century. Analyzing a range of sources, including sexology texts, early cinema, and African American literature, Siobhan B. Somerville argues that the emerging understanding of homosexuality depended on the context of the black/white “color line,” the dominant system of racial distinction during this period. This book thus critiques and revises tendencies to treat race and sexuality as unrelated categories of analysis, showing instead that race has historically been central to the cultural production of homosexuality. At about the same time that the 1896 Supreme Court Plessy v. Ferguson decision hardened the racialized boundary between black and white, prominent trials were drawing the public’s attention to emerging categories of sexual identity. Somerville argues that these concurrent developments were not merely parallel but in fact inextricably interrelated and that the discourses of racial and sexual “deviance” were used to reinforce each other’s terms. She provides original readings of such texts as Havelock Ellis’s late nineteenth-century work on “sexual inversion,” the 1914 film A Florida Enchantment, the novels of Pauline E. Hopkins, James Weldon Johnson’s Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, and Jean Toomer’s fiction and autobiographical writings, including Cane. Through her analyses of these texts and her archival research, Somerville contributes to the growing body of scholarship that focuses on discovering the intersections of gender, race, and sexuality. Queering the Color Line will have broad appeal across disciplines including African American studies, gay and lesbian studies, literary criticism, cultural studies, cinema studies, and gender studies.
The crooner Rudy Vallée's soft, intimate, and sensual vocal delivery simultaneously captivated millions of adoring fans and drew harsh criticism from those threatened by his sensitive masculinity. Although Vallée and other crooners reflected the gender fluidity of late-1920s popular culture, their challenge to the Depression era's more conservative masculine norms led cultural authorities to stigmatize them as gender and sexual deviants. In Real Men Don't Sing Allison McCracken outlines crooning's history from its origins in minstrelsy through its development as the microphone sound most associated with white recording artists, band singers, and radio stars. She charts early crooners’ rise and fall between 1925 and 1934, contrasting Rudy Vallée with Bing Crosby to demonstrate how attempts to contain crooners created and dictated standards of white masculinity for male singers. Unlike Vallée, Crosby survived the crooner backlash by adapting his voice and persona to adhere to white middle-class masculine norms. The effects of these norms are felt to this day, as critics continue to question the masculinity of youthful, romantic white male singers. Crooners, McCracken shows, not only were the first pop stars: their short-lived yet massive popularity fundamentally changed American culture.
American Pentecostalism began as a culturally isolated sect intent upon announcing the imminence of the world's end. The sect's early millenarian fervor gradually became muted in favor of flag-waving patriotism. At the end of the twentieth century it has become an affluent, worldwide movement thoroughly entrenched in popular culture.
Edith Blumhofer uses the Assemblies of God, the largest classical Pentecostal denomination in the world, as a lens through which to view the changing nature of Anglo Pentecostalism in the United States. She illustrates how the original mission to proclaim the end resulted in the development of Bible schools, the rise of the charismatic movement, and the popularity of such figures as Aimee Semple McPherson, Charles Fox Parham, and David Du Plessis. Blumhofer also examines the sect's use of radio and television and the creation of a parallel Christian culture
Science news is met by the public with a mixture of fascination and disengagement. On the one hand, Americans are inflamed by topics ranging from the question of whether or not Pluto is a planet to the ethics of stem-cell research. But the complexity of scientific research can also be confusing and overwhelming, causing many to divert their attentions elsewhere and leave science to the “experts.”
Whether they follow science news closely or not, Americans take for granted that discoveries in the sciences are occurring constantly. Few, however, stop to consider how these advances—and the debates they sometimes lead to—contribute to the changing definition of the term “science” itself. Going beyond the issue-centered debates, Daniel Patrick Thurs examines what these controversies say about how we understand science now and in the future. Drawing on his analysis of magazines, newspapers, journals and other forms of public discourse, Thurs describes how science—originally used as a synonym for general knowledge—became a term to distinguish particular subjects as elite forms of study accessible only to the highly educated.
"Keeping a scrapbook" is a longstanding American tradition. The collections of fragments that often bulge their pages and burst their bindings make scrapbooks a pleasurable feast for both makers and consumers. They are a material manifestation of memory—of the compilers and of the cultural moment in which they were created. Despite the widespread popularity of scrapbooks, historians have rarely examined them in a systematic way. In this fascinating work, fourteen contributors offer the first serious, sustained examination and analysis of scrapbooks. While other books offer suggestions on how to create scrapbooks, this book looks at their significance.The editors observe that scrapbooks are one of the most mysterious objects to be found in a family home. This unique book helps to explain the mystery. It will appeal to all readers with an interest in "scrapbooking" as well as to scholars who study American culture and print, visual, or material culture.
In Sharing the Dance, Cynthia Novack considers the development of contact improvisation within its web of historical, social, and cultural contexts. This book examines the ways contact improvisers (and their surrounding communities) encode sexuality, spontaneity, and gender roles, as well as concepts of the self and society in their dancing.
While focusing on the changing practice of contact improvisation through two decades of social transformation, Novack’s work incorporates the history of rock dancing and disco, the modern and experimental dance movements of Merce Cunningham, Anna Halprin, and Judson Church, among others, and a variety of other physical activities, such as martial arts, aerobics, and wrestling.
Academics have generally dismissed Hollywood's cowboy and Indian movies - one of its defining successful genres - as specious, one-dimensional, and crassly commercial. In Shooting Cowboys and Indians, Andrew Brodie Smith challenges this simplistic characterization of the genre, illustrating the complex and sometimes contentious process by which business interests commercialized images of the West.
Tracing the western from its hazy silent-picture origins in the 1890s to the advent of talking pictures in the 1920s, Smith examines the ways in which silent westerns contributed to the overall development of the film industry.
Focusing on such early important production companies as Selig Polyscope, New York Motion Picture, and Essanay, Smith revises current thinking about the birth of Hollywood and the establishment of Los Angeles as the nexus of filmmaking in the United States. Smith also reveals the role silent westerns played in the creation of the white male screen hero that dominated American popular culture in the twentieth century.
Illustrated with dozens of historic photos and movie stills, this engaging and substantive story will appeal to scholars interested in Western history, film history, and film studies as well as general readers hoping to learn more about this little-known chapter in popular filmmaking.
The essays in Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture chart the ways that the simultaneous interrogation of gender, race, and corporeality shape the construction of black female representation. Kimberly Wallace-Sanders has enlisted a wide variety of scholarly perspectives and critical approaches about the place of black women's bodies within the American cultural consciousness. An impressive gathering of essays and visual art by feminist scholars and artists, the book presents a persuasive argument for broadening the ongoing scholarly conversations about the body. It makes clear that the most salient discourses in poststructuralist and feminist theory are made richer and more complex when the black female body is considered.
The collection blends original and classic essays to reveal the interconnections among art, literature, public policy, the history of medicine, and theories about sexuality with regard to bodies that are both black and female. Contributors include Rachel Adams, Elizabeth Alexander, Lisa Collins, Bridgette Davis, Lisa E.Farrington, Anne Fausto-Sterling, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Evelynn Hammonds, Terri Kapsalis, Jennifer L. Morgan, Siobhan B. Somerville, Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, Carla Williams, and Doris Witt.
Skin Deep, Spirit Strong: The Black Female Body in American Culture will appeal to both the academic reader attempting to integrate race into discussion about the female body and to the general reader curious about the history of black female representation.
Kimberly Wallace-Sanders is Assistant Professor, Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts and Institute of Women's Studies, Emory University.
In A Small Boy and Others, Michael Moon makes a vital contributon to our understanding of the dynamics of sexuality and identity in modern American culture. He explores a wide array of literary, artistic, and theatrical performances ranging from the memoirs of Henry James and the dances of Vaslav Nijinsky to the Pop paintings of Andy Warhol and such films as Midnight Cowboy, Blue Velvet, and Jack Smith’s Flaming Creatures.
Moon illuminates the careers of James, Warhol, and others by examining the imaginative investments of their protogay childhoods in their work in ways that enable new, more complex cultural readings. He deftly engages notions of initiation and desire not within the traditional framework of “sexual orientation” but through the disorienting effects of imitation. Whether invoking the artist Joseph Cornell’s early fascination with the Great Houdini or turning his attention to James’s self-described “initiation into style” at the age of twelve—when he first encountered the homoerotic imagery in paintings by David, Géricault, and Girodet—Moon reveals how the works of these artists emerge from an engagement that is obsessive to the point of “queerness.”
Rich in historical detail and insistent in its melding of the recent with the remote, the literary with the visual, the popular with the elite, A Small Boy and Others presents a hitherto unimagined tradition of brave and outrageous queer invention. This long-awaited contribution from Moon will be welcomed by all those engaged in literary, cultural, and queer studies.
How does a blatant lying in TV commercials—like Joe Isuzu's manic claims—create public trust in a product or a company? How does a company associated with a disaster, Exxon or Du Pont for example, restore its reputation? What is the real story behind the rendering of the now infamous Joe Camel? And what is the deeper meaning of living in an ad, ad, ad world? For a decade, journalist Leslie Savan has been exposing the techniques used by advertisers to push products and pump up corporate images. In the lively essays in this collection, Savan penetrates beneath the slick surfaces of specific ads and marketing campaigns to show how they reflect and shape consumer desires.
Savan's interviews with ad agencies and corporate clients—along with her insightful analyses of influential TV sports—reveal how successful advertising works. Ads do more than command attention. They are signposts to the political, cultural, and social trends that infiltrate the individual consumer's psyche. Think of the products associated with corporate mascots—the drum-beating bunny, the cereal-pushing tiger, the doughboy—that have become pop culture icons. Think cool. Think of the clothing manufacturer that uses multiracial imagery. Think progressive. Buy their worldview, buy their product. When virtually every product can be associate with some positive self-image, we are subtly refashioned into the advertiser's concept of a good citizen. Like it or not, we lead "the sponsored life."
The evolution of New York nightlife from the Gay Nineties through the Jazz Age was, as Lewis A. Erenberg shows, both symbol and catalyst of America's transition out of the Victorian period. Cabaret culture led the way to new styles of behavior and consumption, dissolving conventional barriers between classes, races, the sexes—even between life and art. A fabulous era of chorus girls, jazz players, lobster palaces, and hip flasks—the age of Sophie Tucker, Irene and Vernon Castle, and Gilda Gray—tangos through the pages of this ground-breaking, as well as entertaining, cultural history.
Studies in American Culture was first published in 1960. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
The last decade has seen a revolutionary interest at colleges and universities both in this country and abroad in the field known variously as American Studies, American Civilization, or American Culture. Now the time is ripe for a critical look at the field, to assess its intellectual and cultural problems, and to anticipate its future. This is what the contributors to this volume do, through thoughtful discussions and interesting examples of studies in American ideas and images.
There are sixteen contributors, members of the faculties of a number of colleges and universities, and representatives of various specialties such as literary history and criticism; social, intellectual, and aesthetic history; political, economic, and social theory.
In the introductory chapter, Henry Nash Smith discusses the problems of method which confront scholars in American Studies. The chapters which follow contain outstanding examples of scholarship in American Studies. The authors are Reuel Denney, John W. Ward, Mulford Q. Sibley, David R. Weimer, William Van O'Connor, Bernard Bowron, Leo Marx, Arnold Rose, Allen Tate, David W. Noble, J. C. Levenson, Joseph J. Kwiat, Theodore C. Blegen, and Charles H. Foster. In the final chapter, Robert E. Spiller looks at the past, present, and future of American Studies.
All the contributors as well as the editors are now or have been associated with the American Studies program at the University of Minnesota and with the late Tremaine McDowell, chairman of the program for thirteen years and a pioneer in the development of the discipline.
The book will be useful to anyone interested in American thought, culture, and society, to those conducting American Studies programs, and to their students.
During the 1930s, swing bands combined jazz and popular music to create large-scale dreams for the Depression generation, capturing the imagination of America's young people, music critics, and the music business. Swingin' the Dream explores that world, looking at the racial mixing-up and musical swinging-out that shook the nation and has kept people dancing ever since.
"Swingin' the Dream is an intelligent, provocative study of the big band era, chiefly during its golden hours in the 1930s; not merely does Lewis A. Erenberg give the music its full due, but he places it in a larger context and makes, for the most part, a plausible case for its importance."—Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World
"An absorbing read for fans and an insightful view of the impact of an important homegrown art form."—Publishers Weekly
"[A] fascinating celebration of the decade or so in which American popular music basked in the sunlight of a seemingly endless high noon."—Tony Russell, Times Literary Supplement
Technical Knowledge in American Culture addresses the relationships between what modern-day experts say to each other and to their constituencies and whether what they say and do relates to the larger culture, society, and era. These essays challenge the social impact model by looking at science, technology, and medicine not as social activities but as intellectual activities.
In less than a century, the flickering blue-gray light of the television screen has become a cultural icon. What do the images transmitted by that screen tell us about power, authority, gender stereotypes, and ideology in the United States? Television, History, and American Culture addresses this question by illuminating how television both reflects and influences American culture and identity. The essays collected here focus on women in front of, behind, and on the TV screen, as producers, viewers, and characters. Using feminist and historical criticism, the contributors investigate how television has shaped our understanding of gender, power, race, ethnicity, and sexuality from the 1950s to the present. The topics range from the role that women broadcasters played in radio and early television to the attempts of Desilu Productions to present acceptable images of Hispanic identity, from the impact of TV talk shows on public discourse and the politics of offering viewers positive images of fat women to the negotiation of civil rights, feminism, and abortion rights on news programs and shows such as I Spy and Peyton Place. Innovative and accessible, this book will appeal to those interested in women’s studies, American studies, and popular culture and the critical study of television.
Contributors. Julie D’Acci, Mary Desjardins, Jane Feuer, Mary Beth Haralovich, Michele Hilmes, Moya Luckett, Lauren Rabinovitz, Jane M. Shattuc, Mark Williams
The early settlers in America had a special relationship to the theater. Though largely without a theater of their own, they developed an ideology of theater that expressed their sense of history, as well as their version of life in the New World. Theater Enough provides an innovative analysis of early American culture by examining the rhetorical shaping of the experience of settlement in the new land through the metaphor of theater. The rhetoric, or discourse, of early American theater emerged out of the figures of speech that permeated the colonists’ lives and literary productions. Jeffrey H. Richards examines a variety of texts—histories, diaries, letters, journals, poems, sermons, political tracts, trial transcripts, orations, and plays—and looks at the writings of such authors as John Winthrop and Mercy Otis Warren. Richards places the American usage of theatrum mundi—the world depicted as a stage—in the context of classical and Renaissance traditions, but shows how the trope functions in American rhetoric as a register for religious, political, and historical attitudes.
Now revised and expanded, Touching Base examines the myths as well as the realities, symbols, and rituals of "America's favorite pastime." Steven Riess details the relationships among urban politics, communities, and baseball, exploring how debates over issues such as Sunday games, ballpark construction, and the promotion of the game were shaped by Progressive Era sensibilities. Focusing on Atlanta, New York, and Chicago, Riess analyzes the spectators, owners, and players to evaluate how baseball both influenced and mirrored broader society.
The first book-length interpretation of the new conservative leaders of America's largest Protestant denomination.
Uneasy in Babylon is based on extensive interviews with the most important Southern Baptist conservatives who have assumed control of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Known to many Americans from their appearances on national TV talk shows, such as Larry King Live and Fox News, they advocate a return to traditional values throughout the country. Hankins shows how differing cultural perceptions help explain the great chasm that developed between fundamentalists in the SBC and the moderates who preceded them as leaders of the denomination.
If you enjoy popular music and culture today, you have vaudeville to thank. From the 1870s until the 1920s, vaudeville was the dominant context for popular entertainment in the United States, laying the groundwork for the music industry we know today.
In Vaudeville Melodies, Nicholas Gebhardt introduces us to the performers, managers, and audiences who turned disjointed variety show acts into a phenomenally successful business. First introduced in the late nineteenth century, by 1915 vaudeville was being performed across the globe, incorporating thousands of performers from every branch of show business. Its astronomical success relied on a huge network of theatres, each part of a circuit and administered from centralized booking offices. Gebhardt shows us how vaudeville transformed relationships among performers, managers, and audiences, and argues that these changes affected popular music culture in ways we are still seeing today. Drawing on firsthand accounts, Gebhardt explores the practices by which vaudeville performers came to understand what it meant to entertain an audience, the conditions in which they worked, the institutions they relied upon, and the values they imagined were essential to their success.
A Very Serious Thing was first published in 1988. Minnesota Archive Editions uses digital technology to make long-unavailable books once again accessible, and are published unaltered from the original University of Minnesota Press editions.
"It is a very serious thing to be a funny woman." –Frances Miriam Berry Whitcher
A Very Serious Thing is the first book-length study of a part of American literature that has been consistently neglected by scholars and underrepresented in anthologies—American women's humorous writing. Nancy Walker proposes that the American humorous tradition to be redefined to include women's humor as well as men's, because, contrary to popular opinion, women do have a sense of humor.
Her book draws on history, sociology, anthropology, literature, and psychology to posit that the reasons for neglect of women's humorous expression are rooted in a male-dominated culture that has officially denied women the freedom and self-confidence essential to the humorist. Rather than a study of individual writers, the book is an exploration of relationships between cultural realities—including expectations of "true womanhood"—and women's humorous response to those realities.
Humorous expression, Walker maintains, is at odds with the culturally sanctioned ideal of the "lady," and much of women's humor seems to accept, while actually denying, this ideal. In fact, most of American women's humorous writing has been a feminist critique of American culture and its attitudes toward women, according to the author.
"Have you taken your vitamins today?" That question echoes daily through American households. Thanks to intensive research in nutrition and medicine, the importance of vitamins to health is undisputed. But millions of Americans believe that the vitamins they get in their food are not enough. Vitamin supplements have become a multibillion-dollar industry. At the same time, many scientists, consumer advocacy groups, and the federal Food and Drug Administration doubt that most people need to take vitamin pills.
Vitamania tells how and why vitamins have become so important to so many Americans. Rima Apple examines the claims and counterclaims of scientists, manufacturers, retailers, politicians, and consumers from the discovery of vitamins in the early twentieth century to the present. She reveals the complicated interests--scientific, professional, financial--that have propelled the vitamin industry and its would-be regulators. From early advertisements linking motherhood and vitamin D, to Linus Pauling's claims for vitamin C, to recent congressional debates about restricting vitamin products, Apple's insightful history shows the ambivalence of Americans toward the authority of science. She also documents how consumers have insisted on their right to make their own decisions about their health and their vitamins.
Vitamania makes fascinating reading for anyone who takes--or refuses to take--vitamins. It will be of special interest to students, scholars, and professionals in public health, the biomedical sciences, history of medicine and science, twentieth-century history, nutrition, marketing, and consumer studies.
The War in American Culture explores the role of World War II in the transformation of American social, cultural, and political life.
World War II posed a crisis for American culture: to defeat the enemy, Americans had to unite across the class, racial and ethnic boundaries that had long divided them. Exploring government censorship of war photography, the revision of immigration laws, Hollywood moviemaking, swing music, and popular magazines, these essays reveal the creation of a new national identity that was pluralistic, but also controlled and sanitized. Concentrating on the home front and the impact of the war on the lives of ordinary Americans, the contributors give us a rich portrayal of family life, sexuality, cultural images, and working-class life in addition to detailed consideration of African Americans, Latinos, and women who lived through the unsettling and rapidly altered circumstances of wartime America.