Lukas Rieppel shows how dinosaurs gripped the popular imagination and became emblems of America’s industrial power and economic prosperity during the Gilded Age. Spectacular fossils were displayed in museums financed by North America’s wealthiest tycoons, to cement their reputation as both benefactors of science and fierce capitalists.
More than ever, architectural design is seen as a means to promote commercial goals rather than as an end in itself. Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, for example, simply cannot be considered apart from its intended role as a catalyst for the economic revitalization of Bilbao and its ability to attract tourist dollars, regardless of its architectural merits. A built environment intended to seduce consumers is more likely to offer instant gratification than to invite independent thought and reflection. But how harmful, if at all, is this unprecedented commercialization of architecture?
Framed with a provocative introduction by Kenneth Frampton, the contributions to Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture stake out a variety of positions in the debate over the extent to which it is possible—or desirable—to escape from, resist, or suggest plausible alternatives to the dominant culture of consumer capitalism. Rejecting any dreamy nostalgia for an idealized present or past in which design is completely divorced from commerce—and, in some cases, celebrating the pleasures of spectacle—the individual essays range from indictments of particular architects and critiques of the profession to broader concerns about what the phenomenon of commodification means for the practice of democracy and the health of society.
Bringing together an impressive and varied group of critics and practitioners, Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture will help to sharpen the discussion of how design can respond to our hypercommodified culture.
Contributors: Michael Benedikt, Luis Fernández-Galiano, Thomas Frank, Kevin Ervin Kelley, Daniel Naegele, Rick Poynor, Michael Sorkin, Wouter Vanstiphout.
William S. Saunders is editor of Harvard Design Magazine and assistant dean for external relations at the Harvard Design School. He is the author of Modern Architecture: Photographs by Ezra Stoller.
Kenneth Frampton is Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and author of many books, including Labour, Work, and Architecture.
A compelling analysis of how "middling" Americans entertained themselves and how these entertainments changed over time.
The changing styles of middle-class home entertainments, Melanie Dawson argues, point to evolving ideas of class identity in U.S. culture. Drawing from 19th- and early-20th-century fiction, guidebooks on leisure, newspaper columns, and a polemical examination of class structures, Laboring to Play interrogates the ways that leisure performances (such as parlor games, charades, home dramas, and tableaux vivants) encouraged participants to test out the boundaries that were beginning to define middle-class lifestyles.
From 19th-century parlor games involving grotesque physical contortions to early-20th-century recitations of an idealized past, leisure employments mediated between domestic and public spheres, individuals and class-based affiliations, and ideals of egalitarian social life and visible hierarchies based on privilege. Negotiating these paradigms, home entertainments provided their participants with unique ways of performing displays of individual ambitions within a world of polite social interaction.
Laboring to Play deals with subjects as wide ranging as social performances, social history (etiquette and gentility), literary history, representations of childhood, and the history of the book.
Today crisis appears to be the normal order of things. We seem to be turning in widening gyres of economic failure, species extinction, resource scarcity, war, and climate change. These crises are interconnected ecologically, economically, and politically. Just as importantly, they are connected—and disconnected—in our imaginations. Public imaginations are possibly the most important stage on which crises are played out, for these views determine how the problems are perceived and what solutions are offered.
In The Nature of Spectacle, Jim Igoe embarks on multifaceted explorations of how we imagine nature and how nature shapes our imaginations. The book traces spectacular productions of imagined nature across time and space—from African nature tourism to transnational policy events to green consumer appeals in which the push of a virtual button appears to initiate a chain of events resulting in the protection of polar bears in the Arctic or jaguars in the Amazon rainforest. These explorations illuminate the often surprising intersections of consumerism, entertainment, and environmental policy. They show how these intersections figure in a strengthening and problematic policy consensus in which economic growth and ecosystem health are cast as mutually necessitating conditions. They also take seriously the potential of these intersections and how they may facilitate other alignments and imaginings that may become the basis of alternatives to our current socioecological predicaments.
A fascinating look at the United States’ conflicted relationship with news and the media, through the lens of the newsreel
When weekly newsreels launched in the early twentieth century, they offered the U.S. public the first weekly record of events that symbolized “indisputable evidence” of the news. In News Parade, Joseph Clark examines the history of the newsreel and how it changed the way Americans saw the world. He combines an examination of the newsreel’s methods of production, distribution, and reception with an analysis of its representational strategies to understand the newsreel’s place in the history of twentieth-century American culture and film history.
Clark focuses on the sound newsreel of the 1930s and 1940s, arguing that it represents a crucial moment in the development of a spectacular society where media representations of reality became more fully integrated into commodity culture. Using several case studies, including the newsreel’s coverage of Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight and the Sino–Japanese War, News Parade shows how news film transformed the relationship between its audience and current events, as well as the social and political consequences of these changes. It pays particular attention to how discourses of race and gender worked together with the rhetoric of speed, mobility, and authority to establish the power and privilege of newsreel spectatorship.
In the age of fake news and the profound changes to journalism brought on by the internet, News Parade demonstrates how new technologies and media reshaped the American public’s relationship with the news in the 1930s—a history that can help us to better understand the transformations happening today.
Longlist finalist, 2015 Historia Nova Prize for Best Book on Russian Intellectual and Cultural History
Julia Bekman Chadaga’s ambitious study posits that glass—in its uses as a material and as captured in culture—is a key to understanding the evolution of Russian identity from the eighteenth century onward. From the contemporary perspective, it is easy to overlook how glass has profoundly transformed vision. Chadaga shows the far-reaching effects of this phenomenon.
Her book examines the similarities between glass and language, the ideological uses of glass, and the material’s associations with modernity, while illuminating the work of Lomonosov, Dostoevsky, Zamyatin, and Eisenstein, among others. In particular, Chadaga explores the prominent role of glass in the discourse around Russia’s contentious relationship with the West—by turns admiring and antagonistic—as the nation crafted a vision for its own future. Chadaga returns throughout to the spectacular aspect of glass and shows how both the tendentious capacity and the playfulness of this material have shaped Russian culture.
When Nigeria hosted the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977, it celebrated a global vision of black nationhood and citizenship animated by the exuberance of its recent oil boom. Andrew Apter's The Pan-African Nation tells the full story of this cultural extravaganza, from Nigeria's spectacular rebirth as a rapidly developing petro-state to its dramatic demise when the boom went bust.
According to Apter, FESTAC expanded the horizons of blackness in Nigeria to mirror the global circuits of its economy. By showcasing masks, dances, images, and souvenirs from its many diverse ethnic groups, Nigeria forged a new national culture. In the grandeur of this oil-fed confidence, the nation subsumed all black and African cultures within its empire of cultural signs and erased its colonial legacies from collective memory. As the oil economy collapsed, however, cultural signs became unstable, contributing to rampant violence and dissimulation.
The Pan-African Nation unpacks FESTAC as a historically situated mirror of production in Nigeria. More broadly, it points towards a critique of the political economy of the sign in postcolonial Africa.
HGTV has perfected stories about creating and capturing value in the housing market. But according to Robert Goldman, this lifestyle network’s beloved flagship programs, Flip or Flop, Property Brothers, and Fixer Upper—where people revitalize modern spaces and reinvent property values—offer “fairy tales” in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. The cable channel’s seductive, bingeable programs may show how to find and extract value from properties, but, in fact, they insidiously ignore the realities of the real estate and mortgage markets, housing inequality, gentrification, economic insecurity, and even homelessness. In effect, HGTV has turned house flipping into a master narrative about getting ahead in America during an era of otherwise uneasy economic prospects.
HGTV pictures its insular moral economy as an alternative to a crisis-ridden neoliberal finance system that shaped landscapes of foreclosure and financial uncertainty for millions of households. Renovating Value explores the circuitry of consumer credit and debt, and a rent-gap model of gentrification that charts a path to the rehabilitation of Value. Goldman shrewdly critiques the aspirational myth of adding value to a home simply by using imagination, elbow grease, and aesthetic know-how.
A leader of a global superpower is betrayed by his mistress, who makes public the sordid details of their secret affair. His wife stands by as he denies the charges. Debates over definitions of moral leadership ensue. Sound familiar? If you guessed Clinton and Lewinsky, try again. This incident involved former Japanese prime minister Sosuke Uno and a geisha.
In Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle, Mark D. West organizes the seemingly random worlds of Japanese and American scandal—from corporate fraud to baseball cheaters, political corruption to celebrity sexcapades—to explore well-ingrained similarities and contrasts in law and society. In Japan and the United States, legal and organizational rules tell us what kind of behavior is considered scandalous. When Japanese and American scandal stories differ, those rules—rules that define what’s public and what’s private, rules that protect injuries to dignity and honor, and rules about sex, to name a few—often help explain the differences. In the cases of Clinton and Uno, the rules help explain why the media didn’t cover Uno’s affair, why Uno’s wife apologized on her husband’s behalf, and why Uno—and not Clinton—resigned.
Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle offers a novel approach to viewing the phenomenon of scandal—one that will be applauded by anyone who has obsessed over (or ridiculed) these public episodes.
Inspired by the foreign policy entanglements of recent years, William V. Spanos offers a dramatic interpretation of Twain’s classic A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, providing a fresh assessment of American exceptionalism and the place of a global America in the American imaginary. Spanos insists that Twain identifies with his protagonist, particularly in his defining use of the spectacle, and thus with an American exceptionalism that uncannily anticipates the George W. Bush administration’s normalization of the state of exception and the imperial policy of “preemptive war,” unilateral “regime change,” and “shock and awe” tactics. Equally stimulating is Spanos’s thoroughly original ontology of American exceptionalism and imperialism and his tracing of these forces, through a chronological examination of Twain studies and criticism over the past century. As an examination of an overlooked text, and a critical history of American studies from its origins in the nation-oriented Myth and Symbol school of the Cold War era to its present globalizing or transnationalizing perspective, Shock and Awe will appeal to a broad audience of American literature scholars and beyond.
As China becomes increasingly modern and urban, artists have responded by imagining the Chinese city at the intersections of the social, material, and political realities of modern life. This volume explores how the city-as-spectacle has been visualized and contested in art and popular culture. Featuring essays by an interdisciplinary team of scholars, Spectacle and the City is as broad as the terrain it covers: with essays by an interdisciplinary team of experts on Chinese cities, as well as leading cultural critics, it goes beyond mainland China to include cities with cultural significance, such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
The Spectacle of Democracy was first published in 1994. 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.
In this age of increased global communication the media seem like juggernauts paving the way from dictatorship to democracy. Richard Maxwell's study of television in Spain overturns this myth of technological power. He shows us how transitions themselves have a profound impact on the media, as controllers of national television clash with commercial media promoters and with regionalists who want television to extend their nationalist politics and collective identity.
Maxwell's sophisticated analysis of the many variables shaping communication policy within the nation-state draws on a decade of research into Spanish culture, mass media, and political economy. Although focused on Spain, his work provides general insight into the nature of communication policy debates in today's globalized economy. A study of the transformation of television in Spain following the end of Franco's dictatorship, Maxwell's book examines the politics of the privatization of television, the rise of regional television, and the transnational realignment of national media space.
Richard Maxwell is assistant professor in the department of radio, television, and film in the School of Speech at Northwestern University.
How is history produced? How do individuals write—or rewrite—their parts while engaged in the production of history? Michael Lynch and David Bogen take the example of the Iran-contra hearings to explore these questions. These hearings, held in 1987 by the Joint House-Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaragua Opposition, provided the nation with a media spectacle and a rare chance to see a struggle over the writing of history. There was Oliver North, prime suspect and designated scapegoat, turning into a hero of the American Right before the very eyes of the nation. How this transformation occurred, with the complicity of the press and the public, becomes disturbingly clear in The Spectacle of History. Lynch and Bogen detail the practices through which the historical agents at the center of the hearings composed, confirmed, used, erased, and denied the historical record. They show how partisan skirmishes over the disclosure of records and testimony led to a divided and irresolute outcome, an outcome further facilitated by the “applied deconstruction” deployed by North and his allies. The Spectacle of History immerses the reader in a crowded field of texts, utterances, visual displays, and media commentaries, but, more than a case study, it develops unique insight into problems at the heart of society and social theory—lying and credibility, the production of civic spectacle, the relationship between testimony and history, the uses of memory, and the interplay between speech and writing. Drawing on themes from sociology, literary theory, and ethnomethodology and challenging prevailing concepts held by contemporary communication and cultural studies, Lynch and Bogen extract valuable theoretical lessons from this specific and troubling historical episode.
Once called "America's greatest actress," renowned for the passion and power of her performances, Clara Morris (1847-1925) has been largely forgotten. A Spectacle of Suffering: Clara Morris on the American Stage is the first full-length study of the actress's importance as a feminist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Detailing her daunting health problems and the changing tastes in entertainment that led to her retirement from the stage, Barbara Wallace Grossman explores Morris's dramatic reinvention as an author. During a second robust career, she published hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles and nine books—six works of fiction and three memoirs.
Grossman draws on the fifty-four-volume diary that Morris kept from 1868 until 1924, as well as on the manuscript fragments and notes of journalist George T. MacAdam, who died in 1929 before completing the actress's biography. Grossman provides a dramatic account of Morris's life and work from her troubled early years, through an unhappy marriage, morphine addiction, and invalidism, to the challenges of touring, the decline of her artistic reputation, and the demands of the writing career she pursued so tenaciously. A Spectacle of Suffering reveals how Morris, even after experiencing blindness and the loss of her home, livelihood, and family, did not succumb to despair and found comfort in the small pleasures of her circumscribed life.
A Spectacle of Suffering recovers an important figure in American theatre and ensures that Morris will be remembered not simply as an actress but as a respected writer and beloved public figure, admired for her courage in dealing with adversity. The book, which is enhanced by twenty-four illustrations, is the only published biography of Clara Morris. It is as much a tribute to the power of the human spirit as it is an effective means of exploring American theatre and society in the Gilded Age.
Too "artistic" for political history, too political for the history of art, the visual history of the campaign for women's suffrage in Britain has long been neglected. In this comprehensive and pathbreaking study, Lisa Tickner discusses and illustrates the suffragist use of spectacle—the design of banners, posters and postcards, the orchestration of mass demonstrations—in an unprecedented propaganda campaign.
This book explores the tradition, impact, and contemporary relevance of two key ideas from Western Marxism: Georg Lukács's concept of reification, in which social aspects of humanity are viewed in objectified terms, and Guy Debord's concept of the spectacle, where the world is packaged and presented to consumers in uniquely mediated ways. Bringing the original, yet now often forgotten, theoretical contexts for these terms back to the fore, Johan Hartle and Samir Gandesha offer a new look at the importance of Western Marxism from its early days to the present moment-and reveal why Marxist cultural critique must continue to play a vital role in any serious sociological analysis of contemporary society.
Animal spectacles are vital to a holistic appreciation of Spanish culture. In Transoceanic Animals as Spectacle in Early Modern Spain, Beusterien christens five previously unnamed animals, each of whom was a protagonist in a spectacle: Abada, the rhinoceros; Hawa'i, the elephant; Fuleco, the armadillo; Jarama, the bull; and Maghreb, the lion. In presenting and analyzing their stories, Beusterien enriches our understanding of the role of animals in the development of commercial theater in Spain and the modern bullfight. He also contributes to growing scholarly conversations on the importance of Spain in the history of science by examining how animal spectacles had profound repercussions on the emergence of the modern zoo and natural history museum. Combining scholarly content analysis and pedagogical sagacity, the book has a broad appeal for scholars of the early modern Spanish empire, animal studies scholars, and secondary and post-secondary instructors looking for engaging exercises and information for their Spanish language, culture, and history students.