The Art of Democracy: A Concise History of Popular Culture in the United States / Edition 1

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Overview

"Cullen's strength comes from his understanding of how the different strands of American society intertwine in imaginative, unpredictable ways ... The shape and vitality of pop culture's next era will depend, at least in part, on commentators like Cullen."

Washington Post Book World

"A thoroughly engaging look at American culture ... Cullen's articulate prose is spiced with wicked wit and he loves a good story ... Demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of complex cultural forces."

Publishers Weekly

"Reflecting both the strengths and weaknesses of an unusually dynamic area of historical scholarship, The Art of Democracy is one of the best surveys of the history of American popular culture."

Journal of American History

"An exceptionally well-written and engrossing introduction to the nonelitist art forms of American popular culture ... Highly recommended."

Library Journal, starred review

"Should be kept on hand to restore our faith in the things that matter to us."

American Studies

Popular culture has been a powerful force in the United States, resonating within the society as a whole and at the same time connecting disparate and even hostile constituencies. The novels of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the theater and minstrel shows of the mid-19th century, movies and the introduction of television and computers in the 20th century are the building blocks that Jim Cullen uses to show how unique and vibrant cultural forms overcame initial resistance and enabled historically marginalized groups to gain access to the fruits of society and recognition from the mainstream.

This updatededition contains a new preface and final chapter which traces the history of contemporary computing from its World War II origins as a military tool to its widespread use in the late 20th century as a tool for the masses. Cullen shows how the computer is reshaping popular culture, and how that culture retains its capacity to surprise and disturb.

The highly acclaimed first edition of The Art of Democracy won the 1996 Ray and Pat Brown Award for "Best Book," presented by the Popular Culture Association.

Author Biography: Jim Cullen has taught at Brown and Harvard Universities, and is now in the History Department at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City. His previous books include Born in the USA: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition and The Civil War in Popular Culture: A Reusable Past.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The connection between yesterday's Victorian dime-novel denizens and today's African American rap fans, Culture Club's sudden rise to fame in the early 1980s and the demise of the Golden Age of Hollywood are just a few of the fascinating topics tackled in this analysis of popular culture from revolutionary times to the present. Cullen, who teaches history and literature at Harvard and is the author of The Civil War in Popular Culture, shows how cultural innovations are often developed by marginalized populations and (after initial rejection by cultural elites) trickle into the mainstream. Juicy details of representative people or events (e.g., the 1849 Astor Place theater riot, the band Los Lobos) accompany each chapter. Cullen's articulate prose is spiced with wicked wit and he loves a good story. He is also tolerant of the ambiguities inherent in popular culture; his treatment of the rise and fall of minstrel shows demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of complex cultural forces. Cullen looks at popular art not as escapism but as valuable work in its own right, an approach that makes The Art of Democracy a thoroughly engaging look at American culture. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This second book by Cullen (following The Civil War in Popular Culture, Smithsonian, 1995), a Harvard professor whose reviews have appeared in Rolling Stone, is an exceptionally well-written and engrossing introduction to the nonelitist art forms of American popular culture. His subjects encompass the history of the chapbook, the novel, and the mass press as well as fascinating coverage of antebellum performing arts, examining African American slave music vs. minstrelsy. Each of the six chapters has an in-depth topic, such as the humor of Bert Williams or a closer look at Chaplin and Billie Holliday, but broader views develop. A central theme to this study of the popular and profane is the frequency of black traditions and imagination revitalizing U.S. culture. The early feminist novel and the movies, Nat King Cole and Elvis, country music and Milli Vanilli, and the PC and popular culture all coexist with ease in this work that will be of considerable interest to scholars and general readers alike. Highly recommended.Mary Hamel-Schwulst, Towson State Univ., Md.
From the Publisher

"Cullen's strength comes from his understanding of how the different strands of American society intertwine in imaginative, unpredictable ways ... The shape and vitality of pop culture's next era will depend, at least in part, on commentators like Cullen."—-Washington Post Book World,

"Should be kept on hand to restore our faith in the things that matter to us."—-American Studies,

"An exceptionally well-written and engrossing introduction to the nonelitist art forms of American popular culture ... Highly recommended."—, -Library Journal,starred review

"Reflecting both the strengths and weaknesses of an unusually dynamic area of historical scholarship, The Art of Democracy is one of the best surveys of the history of American popular culture."-Journal of American History,

"A thoroughly engaging look at American culture ... Cullen's articulate prose is spiced with wicked wit and he loves a good story ... Demonstrates a sophisticated understanding of complex cultural forces."—-Publishers Weekly,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780853459200
  • Publisher: Monthly Review Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/1996
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 346
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Jim Cullen has taught at Brown and Harvard Universities, and is now in the History Department at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in New York City. His previous books include Born in the USA: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition and The Civil War in Popular Culture: A Reusable Past.

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Table of Contents

Preface & Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Novel Approaches: The Rise of Popular Culture 9
2 Democratic Vistas: The Emergence of Popular Culture: 1800-1860 33
3 Stages of Development: The Segmentation and Consolidation of Popular Culture, 1860-1900 87
4 Mediating Communities: Popular Culture and Modern Technology, 1900-1945 135
5 Small Screens: Popular Culture in the Age of Television and Beyond, 1945-2000 201
6 Harmonic Convergence? Across the Digital Frontier 289
Notes and Further Reading 319
Index 355
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