American Humor: A Study of the National Character

Overview

Stepping out of the darkness, the American emerges upon the stage of history as a new character, as puzzling to himself as to others. American Humor, Constance Rourke's pioneering "study of the national character," singles out the archetypal figures of the Yankee peddler, the backwoodsman, and the blackface minstrel to illuminate the fundamental role of popular culture in fashioning a distinctive American sensibility. A memorable performance in its own right, American Humor crackles with the jibes and jokes of ...
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Overview

Stepping out of the darkness, the American emerges upon the stage of history as a new character, as puzzling to himself as to others. American Humor, Constance Rourke's pioneering "study of the national character," singles out the archetypal figures of the Yankee peddler, the backwoodsman, and the blackface minstrel to illuminate the fundamental role of popular culture in fashioning a distinctive American sensibility. A memorable performance in its own right, American Humor crackles with the jibes and jokes of generations while presenting a striking picture of a vagabond nation in perpetual self-pursuit. Davy Crockett and Henry James, Jim Crow and Emily Dickinson rub shoulders in a work that inspired such later critics as Pauline Kael and Lester Bangs and which still has much to say about the America of Bob Dylan and Thomas Pynchon, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The most original piece of investigation and interpretation that has appeared in American cultural history. It is in every way a brilliant book." — Lewis Mumford
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590170793
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 12/15/2003
  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 258
  • Product dimensions: 4.98 (w) x 7.97 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Constance Rourke (1885-1941) was a historian, anthropologist, and critic who revolutionized the study of American culture. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, and educated at Vassar and the Sorbonne, she spent most of her life in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her influential studies of American life include Trumpets of Jubilee (1927), Troupers of the Gold Coast (1928), and biographies of Davy Crockett (1928), Audubon (1936), and Charles Sheeler: Artist in the American Tradition (1938). Her most famous work remains American Humor: A Study of the National Character, recognized as a classic from its publication in 1931. Rourke devoted her later life to “living research,” exploring regional culture, from Shaker furniture to African-American song, and Western folk tales. She died in 1941, after falling on an icy porch.
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Table of Contents

Introduction
Acknowledgments 9
Foreword 11
I Corn Cobs Twist Your Hair 15
II The Gamecock of the Wilderness 37
III That Long-Tail'd Blue 70
IV Strollers 91
V The Comic Poet 115
VI I Hear America Singing 133
VII Facing West from California's Shores 163
VIII The American 186
IX Round Up 209
Bibliographical Note 237
Index 245
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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2010

    You can't just read it once!

    This is a book about Americans and America that illuminates how far our culture and civilization have come in an incredibly brief period of time. Constance Rourke created a wonderful work with a wealth of research and information to back it up. There are single sentences that pack a lot of punch that are inspiring and require re-reading. Then, there are paragraphs that should be copied and tacked on the wall. The intellectual depth and dedication exhibited throughout the book is exemplary. The book makes one apprectiate how lucky we are to be citizens in this great country called America.

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