Red, White, and Blue Letter Days: An American Calendar / Edition 1

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More About This Textbook


The Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Washington's Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, Labor Day, Martin Luther King's Birthday, and other celebrations matter to Americans and reflect the state of American local and national politics. Commemorations of cataclysmic events and light, apparently trivial observances mirror American political and cultural life. Both reveal much about the material conditions of the United States and its citizens' identities, historical consciousness, and political attitudes. Lying dormant within these festivals is the potential for political consequence, controversy, even transformation. American political fetes remain works in progress, as Americans use historical celebrations as occasions to reinvent themselves and their nation, often with surprising results. In six engaging chapters 'assaying particular political holidays over the course of their histories, Red, White, and Blue Letter Days examines how Americans have shaped and been shaped by their calendar.Matthew Dennis explores this vast political and cultural terrain, charting how Americans defined their identities through celebration. Independence Day invited African Americans to demand the equality promised in the Declaration of Independence, for example, just as Columbus Day—celebrating the Italian, Catholic explorer—helped immigrants proclaim their legitimacy as Americans. Native Americans too could use public holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Veterans Day, to express dissent or demonstrate their claims to citizenship. Merchants and advertisers colonized the American calendar, moving in to sell their products by linking them, often tenuously, with holiday occasions or casting consumption as a patriotic act.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Dennis explores how various US ethnic groups have identified with Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Columbus Day, Presidents' Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, and Martin Luther King's birthday to express their particular group's distinctiveness. . . . Distinguished by good writing and extensive research, the resulting book is an informative, readable history that goes beyond mere synthesis to demonstrate relationships between rival partisan causes. Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice, March 2003

"Dennis has produced a valuable contribution to the recent scholarship on festive culture, holidays, and the creation of identity in the United States, and his book should join works by David Waldstriecher, Leigh Schmidt, Mary Ryan, and Len Travers as a standard work in the field."—Sarah Purcell. American Studies, 43:3, Fall 2002.

"This engaging study deconstructs public commemorations in the United States from the mid-1700s to the present. . . . His thought-provoking and insightful book should inspire a closer examination of the subject by other scholars."—Virginia Quarterly Review, 179:2

"Unlike other holiday histories, this one closely addresses the racial, sexual, regional, and sectional differences in perspective that marked and sometimes marred public celebrations. . . . It's fascinating to read Dennis's account of the controversy surrounding the early celebration of Washington's Birthday, which was regarded by some as an antirepublican cult of personality."—College and Research Library News, February 2003

"In Red, White, and Blue Letter Days: An American Calendar, Dennis exhibits an outstanding array of American historical background and weaves a complex tapestry of analysis that will appeal to general readers and scholars as well. It is a well-written and ambitious work and would be most appropriate for American culture and American studies courses."—Lawrence E. Ziewacz, Michigan State University, History: Reviews of New Books, Fall 2002

"Dennis reminds readers of the urgent issues at stake when these special times were singled out for inclusion in the American book of days. . . . Each of the holidays addressed has a history as complex and fraught as the design of the American flag."—Karal Ann Marling, University of Minnesota, American Historical Review, April 2003

"Red, White, and Blue Letter Days is an enormously ambitious, creative, well-written, and informative history of the most important and lasting American civic holidays. Matthew Dennis builds on a profusion of recent work on celebrations and historical memory and successfully incorporates more of it than any other book to date."—David Waldstreicher, University of Notre Dame

"A stunning departure from all ordinary books on the meanings of holidays in public memory. With a real flair for narrative and a sharp critical focus, Matthew Dennis blends national and local experiences, showing the profound interactions taking place among ethnicities and partisan causes. There is beauty as well as a powerful logic in these pages."—Andrew Burstein, University of Tulsa

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801472688
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.13 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.20 (d)

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