Patterns for America: Modernism and the Concept of Culture

Patterns for America: Modernism and the Concept of Culture

by Susan Hegeman
     
 

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In recent decades, historians and social theorists have given much thought to the concept of "culture," its origins in Western thought, and its usefulness for social analysis. In this book, Susan Hegeman focuses on the term's history in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. She shows how, during this period, the term "culture" changed from

Overview

In recent decades, historians and social theorists have given much thought to the concept of "culture," its origins in Western thought, and its usefulness for social analysis. In this book, Susan Hegeman focuses on the term's history in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century. She shows how, during this period, the term "culture" changed from being a technical term associated primarily with anthropology into a term of popular usage. She shows the connections between this movement of "culture" into the mainstream and the emergence of a distinctive "American culture," with its own patterns, values, and beliefs.

Hegeman points to the significant similarities between the conceptions of culture produced by anthropologists Franz Boas, Edward Sapir, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead, and a diversity of other intellectuals, including Randolph Bourne, Van Wyck Brooks, Waldo Frank, and Dwight Macdonald. Hegeman reveals how relativist anthropological ideas of human culture--which stressed the distance between modern centers and "primitive" peripheries--came into alliance with the evaluating judgments of artists and critics. This anthropological conception provided a spatial awareness that helped develop the notion of a specifically American "culture." She also shows the connections between this new view of "culture" and the artistic work of the period by, among others, Sherwood Anderson, Jean Toomer, Thomas Hart Benton, Nathanael West, and James Agee and depicts in a new way the richness and complexity of the modernist milieu in the United States.

Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Examines the idea of culture as it was understood and used in the US during the early 20th century, when, in its technical anthropological sense, it became a key notion of American thought. Contends that the notion enabled an estranged, modernist perception of collective identity, which is related to other estrangements of context and perception that have heavily influenced the more experimental artistic movements. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknew.com)
Choice
Clearly stated and persuasive. . . [A] stimulating discussion of the uses and impact of the concept of 'culture' in early-20th-century US thought. . .
Religious Studies Review
One of the most important works in and about American studies in our time.
— Peter W. Williams
Religious Studies Review - Peter W. Williams
One of the most important works in and about American studies in our time.
From the Publisher
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 1999

"Clearly stated and persuasive. . . [A] stimulating discussion of the uses and impact of the concept of 'culture' in early-20th-century US thought. . ."Choice

"One of the most important works in and about American studies in our time."—Peter W. Williams, Religious Studies Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781400823222
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
05/21/1999
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
274
File size:
436 KB

What People are saying about this

Extremely interesting . . . Hegeman's assessments of specific texts, research and publishing ventures, and critical agendas of select scholars and intellectuals are striking and healthily eccentric.
Boon
Extremely interesting . . . Hegeman's assessments of specific texts, research and publishing ventures, and critical agendas of select scholars and intellectuals are striking and healthily eccentric.
James A. Boon, Princeton University
James A. Boon
Extremely interesting . . . Hegeman's assessments of specific texts, research and publishing ventures, and critical agendas of select scholars and intellectuals are striking and healthily eccentric.
Marc Manganaro
Well written, original in conception, insightful in its interpretations, and far-reaching in its readings and conclusions. Hegeman's attention to complex transitions within the history of ideas and their disciplines makes this an exemplary contribution to intellectual and social history.
Marc Manganaro, Rutgers University

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