While the 1950s have been popularly portrayed-on television and in the movies and literature-as a conformist and conservative age, the decade is better understood as a revolutionary time for politics, economy, mass media, and family life. Magazines, films, newspapers, and television of the day scrutinized every aspect of this changing society, paying special attention to the lifestyles of the middle-class men and their families who were moving to the suburbs newly springing up outside American cities. Much of this attention focused on issues of masculinity, both to enforce accepted ideas and to understand serious departures from the norm. Neither a period of "male crisis" nor yet a time of free experimentation, the decade was marked by contradiction and a wide spectrum of role models. This was, in short, the age of Tennessee Williams as well as John Wayne.
In Men in the Middle, James Gilbert uncovers a fascinating and extensive body of literature that confronts the problems and possibilities of expressing masculinity in the 1950s. Drawing on the biographies of men who explored manhood either in their writings or in their public personas, Gilbert examines the stories of several of the most important figures of the day-revivalist Billy Graham, playwright Tennessee Williams, sociologist David Riesman, sex researcher Alfred Kinsey, Playboy literary editor Auguste Comte Spectorsky, and TV-sitcom dad Ozzie Nelson-and allows us to see beyond the inherited stereotypes of the time. Each of these stories, in Gilbert's hands, adds crucial dimensions to our understanding of masculinity the 1950s. No longer will this era be seen solely in terms of the conformist man in the gray flannel suit or the Marlboro Man.
In this elegant and sensitive look at the milieu of the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, James Gilbert examines the three utopias that were designed to bring order to the chaos of urban life: The World's Fair itself, George Pullman's community for his workers, and Dwight Moody's evangelical crusade. Gilbert draws upon a rich selection of fiction, collective biography, architecture, photographs, and souvenir books to show how these experiments each acted as a middle-class prescription for coming to terms with the new cultural diversity and competition resulting from the disruptive forces of technological change, commercial enterprise, and pluralism.
"Mr. Gilbert's splendid book opens the door on a conflicted past, and provides an indispensable perspective on the troubled and troubling struggle we face today between old and new, unity and diversity."—Alan Trachtenberg, New York Times
"Perfect Cities is a remarkable account of a struggle for cultural definition. Chronicling the byplay between cultural homogeneity and heterogeneity, unity and diversity, James Gilbert not only throws light on Chicago's past but also provides insight that can be applied to the cultural debates of our own time."—Adria Bernardi, Chicago Tribune
"What Gilbert has done is to enable the reader to experience the grand utopian visions of the times, yet at the same time see the cantankerous reality that made the visions impossible."—Henry Kisor, Chicago Sun-Times
In this intriguing history, James Gilbert examines the confrontation between modern science and religion as these disparate, sometimes hostile modes of thought clashed in the arena of American culture. Beginning in 1925 with the infamous Scopes trial, Gilbert traces nearly forty years of competing attitudes toward science and religion.
"Anyone seriously interested in the history of current controversies involving religion and science will find Gilbert's book invaluable."—Peter J. Causton, Boston Book Review
"Redeeming Culture provides some fascinating background for understanding the interactions of science and religion in the United States. . . . Intriguing pictures of some of the highlights in this cultural exchange."—George Marsden, Nature
"A solid and entertaining account of the obstacles to mutual understanding that science and religion are now warily overcoming."—Catholic News Service
"[An] always fascinating look at the conversation between religion and science in America."—Publishers Weekly
The 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair was a major event in early-twentieth-century America. Attracting millions of tourists, it exemplified the Victorian predilection for public spectacle. The Fair has long served as a touchstone for historians interested in American culture prior to World War I and has endured in the memories of generations of St. Louis residents and visitors. In Whose Fair? James Gilbert asks: what can we learn about the lived experience of fairgoers when we compare historical accounts, individual and collective memories, and artifacts from the event?
Exploring these differing, at times competing, versions of history and memory prompts Gilbert to dig through a rich trove of archival material. He examines the papers of David Francis, the Fair’s president and subsequent chief archivist; guidebooks and other official publications; the 1944 film Meet Me in St. Louis; diaries, oral histories, and other personal accounts; and a collection of striking photographs. From this dazzling array of sources, Gilbert paints a lively picture of how fairgoers spent their time, while also probing the ways history and memory can complement each other.