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Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century

3.84 of 5 stars 3.84  ·  rating details  ·  49 ratings  ·  7 reviews
With amazing creativity, clarity, and wit, Warren Susman (1927-1985) takes us on a provocative tour of the highlights of American culture. By looking at all types of 20th-century culture—highbrow, lowbrow, and middlebrow—Susman shows how culture itself has become a battleground for competing visions of American life. Fourteen essays include such topics as the nature of Ame ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 17th 2003 by Smithsonian Books (first published February 12th 1985)
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Jim Manis
Considering current events and issues with memory (I’m thinking of a leading news anchor who claims to have “misremembered his war experience), I found the following passage, found on pages 268-9 of the book to be prescient; Susman relates,

Years ago, I did a study of the American expatriates in France. Long before it was in vogue, I decided to do what is today known as oral history. As I began to interview Americans who lived in France between the wars, I soon discovered that frequently they kne
...more
Dion
Never trust a historian to write history, says Nietzsche. Those who cannot act with power are seldom able to chart its course. However, Susman proves to be a rare exception to this rule. This book concerns a History of Culture in the age of communication and bureaucratic reorganization (~1850-1980).

At the outset we are given tools with which to wield history as an ideological weapon and shown that this is its purpose. The artist must reorganize the past to fuel the spectacular dreams of the fut
...more
Oliver Bateman
This book, which I read first as an undergrad and which then struck me as the snooziest of snoozers, has since become central to my work in American studies/cultural studies. The current version of the book is print-on-demand and looks it; the photographs suffer greatly, appearing to have been reproduced on a circa-1989 Xerox machine. It's also overpriced and rendered in a terrible typeface.

That being said, the essays contained herein, which at this point probably warrant a new introduction fro
...more
Kaufmak
Without Susman, there is no Kaufmak. It is because of this book, specifically the essays concerning the culture of the 1930s that my dissertation went from a look at folk music in Chicago to an examination of Alcoholics Anonymous. I literally had a eureka moment in the shower, thinking about the 1930s as a more conservative time than is usually thought, that the movement to become a part of various organizations, the Communist Party among them, was less about changing the political/social/econom ...more
Elizabeth
borrowed from library, 1 Feb. 2014
Julien Gorbach
One of the seminal books that made popular culture a central concern of American historians.
Jean
I gained a better understanding of our political system and how fragil it can be.
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