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Jews and American Popular Culture
     

Jews and American Popular Culture

by Paul Buhle
 

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A who's who of scholars, authors, and journalists examines the contributions of the Jewish people to American culture, from film, food, and fiction to television, music, sports, and humor.

Since they first began arriving in the United States in large numbers at the end of the 19th century, Jewish Americans have played a significant role in shaping American

Overview

A who's who of scholars, authors, and journalists examines the contributions of the Jewish people to American culture, from film, food, and fiction to television, music, sports, and humor.

Since they first began arriving in the United States in large numbers at the end of the 19th century, Jewish Americans have played a significant role in shaping American culture. The influence of the Jewish people is deeply and richly felt in many realms, including art, literature, politics, humor, and sports, to name just a few. The American film industry was pioneered by the likes of Adolph Zukor, Harry Cohn, and Jack Warner. Tin Pan Alley and Broadway sparkled with the creativity of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Stephen Sondheim. Where would rock 'n' roll be without Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, and the Beastie Boys? Jews and American Popular Culture examines the influence of a highly creative and resilient people who have flourished despite the myriad forms anti-Semitism has taken since their earliest arrival.

Chapters explore topics across a range of time periods and genres, including assimilation, stereotypes, and the Holocaust. In addition to examining the works of such compelling figures as Woody Allen, Philip Roth, Hank Greenberg, the Three Stooges, Allen Ginsberg, Wendy Wasserstein, and Ann Landers, a team of unparalleled scholars explains how a comparatively small, initially underprivileged group of people managed to overcome great odds and wield wide-ranging influence on contemporary culture. Shut out of more traditional fields, Jews in the final decades of the 19th century and the opening decades of the 20th century embraced the new technologies of film, radio, and television, as well as new industries and areas of commerce, from the department store to novelty toy distribution. What resulted is an American culture shaped by a resilient minority population. From Betty Boop to Barbie, from The Honeymooners to Friends, the creative spirit of American Jews defines our culture. Edited by acclaimed author Paul Buhle, featuring the work of leading scholars and journalists, and presenting a never-before published comic strip by Harvey Pekar (whose life was featured in the film American Splendor), this definitive, comprehensive three-volume set represents the first-ever work of its kind.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Though this set has the heft of a reference series, it works best in a circulating collection. It is not an encyclopedia but rather an insightful and eclectic compilation of essays by noted scholars and writers. Buhle's (history & American civilization, Brown Univ.; Popular Culture in America; Encyclopedia of the American Left) work cannot be called comprehensive; for instance, the volume on sports covers baseball, basketball, boxing, and the Olympics but not football. The essays are either overviews (e.g., "Television Drama of the Golden Age") or very creative points of entry into a larger topic (e.g., "Making a Scene: Jews, Stooges, and Censors in Pre-War Hollywood"). There are many unusual but telling meditations on popular culture in this expansive series (e.g., "The Jew and the Nose: Plastic Surgery and Popular Culture" written by Beth Aviva Preminger, a plastic surgeon). One of the strong points of the series is that each entry has a list for further reading. There are some useful illustrations, though they are limited. The lay reader will enjoy a browse through, but scholars and students will benefit the most. Libraries with strong American Jewish studies collections should definitely have this set. Academic institutions and large public libraries should consider.
—Paul Kaplan

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780275987961
Publisher:
Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
Publication date:
12/28/2006

What People are Saying About This

Jon Landau^Lrock writer and President

"Paul Buhle's ^IJews and American Popular Culture^R takes on an essential subject with tremendous range, subtly and sensitivity. Above all, the writing of the many excellent contributors is as colorful and rich as the subject itself. I came away from reading this book with a much clearer and more focused idea of the role of Jewish personality, values, and thinking in the formation of modern American culture than ever before."

Jon Landau^Lrock writer and President, Jon Landau Management, Inc.

Meet the Author

PAUL BUHLE is Senior Lecturer in the History and American Civilization departments at Brown University, a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, and author and editor of 29 books, including Popular Culture in America and Encyclopedia of the American Left. He is Contributing Editor to Tikkun magazine and a contributor to The Forward, Jewish Currents, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian, and many other publications.

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