Left Intellectuals and Popular Culture in Twentieth-Century America

Left Intellectuals and Popular Culture in Twentieth-Century America

by Paul R Gorman

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Overview

Since the late nineteenth century, American intellectuals have consistently criticized the mass arts, charging that entertainments ranging from popular theater, motion pictures, and dance halls to hit records, romance novels, and television are harmful to the public. This critique of popular culture continues today, with condemnations of television shows like NYPD Blue and increasing fears about the purported effects of rap or hip-hop music. In this sweeping historical study, Paul Gorman exposes the contradictory nature of this cultural critique. As Gorman shows, popular culture had faced growing denunciation in the 1890s, primarily from conservative writers dismayed at the state of modern values. But in the Progressive Era, intellectuals with liberal sympathies weighed in, complaining that modern entertainments were created to debase and exploit a passive, helpless public. Ironically, they thus initiated a strain of criticism in which the very intellectuals who championed democratic ideals portrayed citizens as dangerously manipulable victims and promoted patronizing plans for their rescue.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780807845561
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 03/04/1996
Edition description: 2
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.66(d)

About the Author

Paul R. Gorman is assistant professor of history at the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

This thoughtful, subtle, and penetrating cultural history traces and analyzes the nature and sources of the left intellectual's overall problematic response to mass entertainment, from the end of the 19th century to the present.—Choice



Gorman has written what will be a very significant and controversial book. He explores how the lack of engagement with real participants in the popular arts undercut the critique Left intellectuals in the twentieth century made of mass culture. Moreover he tells his story with great acuity and by introducing the reader to a terrific cast of characters.—Daniel Horowitz, Smith College

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