November 14, 2014 / by admin / American History / No Comments

The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880-1940 (Cultural Studies of the United States)

The Real Thing: Imitation and Authenticity in American Culture, 1880-1940 (Cultural Studies of the United States)

Miles Orvell

Language: English

Pages: 408

ISBN: 080784246X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

This is a perceptive study of the relationship between technology and culture. Orvell discusses Whitman and his world, then considers material culture, photography, and literature. Among the cultural figures discussed are writers Henry James, John Dos Passos, and James Agee; photographers Alfred Stieglitz and Margaret Bourke-White; and architect-designers Gustav Stickley and Frank Lloyd Wright. A witty essay on the significance of junk in the 1930s concludes the book.

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1890s—make generalization about Victorian domestic style somewhat hazardous.21 Let me nevertheless take as a norm of middle-class style what Kenneth Ames has called the "commercial aesthetic," a picturesque eclecticism that mixes "Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and wholly invented." Turned out by the large manufacturers of Grand Rapids, these eclectic designs pervaded the households of America, giving substance to Beecher's July 4th vision of a prosperous republic.22 Ironically, however, it was

possible for the American to jump several rungs in the social ladder in a single generation, in a process that would only accelerate into the twentieth century; but it was also generating a sense of the "real" self as a remnant one left behind, and that too would remain a consistent feature of American experience, a part of the national mythos, extending into the twentieth century. That sense of movement forward against a current of nostalgia finds its classic expression twenty-five years after

ethnic group looked alike) would help society defend itself against their potential criminality and radicalism. A camera enthusiast, George lies, wrote, "Just as truth has been substituted for tradition in the case of animal movement, so we shall here replace vague impressions of foreigners and of special classes at home by exact and easily compared pictures."42 Yet Gallon's approach was really diametrically opposed to the studies of animal movement by Eadweard Muybridge to which lies refers.

literary mentor for the middle classes was his respect for the limits of parlor taste (where sex was forbidden) coupled with his healthy occasional challenge to accepted practices and subjects. Howells had thrived for years in a culture in which, as he had put it, "the fate of a book is in the hands of the women." Yet his position as man of letters in a world of business embodied a degree of ambiguity that by the early 1890s was clearly causing him discomfort. He was only too aware of the

major transitional figure whose importance we have only recently begun to estimate; and he is especially interesting in the present context, for while he articulated an ideal of simplification and craftsmanship, he yet affirmed the place of the machine in modern production. To Stickley, household furnishings were part of a larger program to express and meet the needs of American culture, and his influence was exercised through the printed word as much as through the wooden chair: from 1901 until

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