The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880-1940 / Edition 1

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This book is a perceptive examination of the relationship between technology and culture. 'The Real Thing' begins with a discussion of Walt Whitman and his world and then expands to a consideration of material culture, photography, and literature, detailing the shift from a nineteenth-century culture of imitation to an early-twentieth-century culture of authenticity.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

New York Times

Stippled with descriptive insights that will reward any reader interested in the . . . debate between copying and creating the 'real thing.

Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

A rich and complex study. It casts new and revealing light on the cultural transformations of the early 20th century.

New Republic

A smoothly written, imaginatively researched study.

Kirkus Reviews

Explores the use of mechanical technology to create works of art that were part of, not merely representations of, reality, and argues that from this tension developed the categories of imitation and authenticity so important to our culture. Begins the series edited by Alan Trachtenberg. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
New Republic
A rich and complex study. It casts new and revealing light on the cultural transformations of the early 20th century. By focusing on the tensions between authenticity and imitation within artistic forms, Orvell provides a new and challenging context for understanding figures too easily subject to formulaic interpretation.
New York Times Book Review
This intriguing cross-cultural look at the material world examines the day and age of the facsimile: why we copy rather than 'create,' at one level; and at another, what is reality?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807842461
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1989
  • Series: Cultural Studies of the United States Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 0.92 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 9.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Miles Orvell is professor of English and American studies at Temple University. He is the author of The Death and Life of Main Street: Small Towns in American Memory, Space, and Community.

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