American Culture, American Tastes: Social Change and the by Michael Kammen

By Michael Kammen

In American tradition, American Tastes, Michael Kammen leads us on an wonderful, thought-provoking travel of America's altering tastes, makes use of of rest, and the transferring perceptions that experience observed them all through our nation's historical past. beginning on the cut-off date that late-nineteenth-century pop culture started to evolve into post-WWII mass tradition, Kammen charts the effect of ads and opinion polling; the improvement of standardized items, buying facilities, and mass advertising; the separation of sweet sixteen and grownup tradition; the connection among "high" and "low" paintings; the commercialization of equipped leisure; and the ways that tv has formed mass tradition and consumerism has reconfigured it. In doing so, he attracts from resources as various and wealthy because the paintings of esteemed cultural theorists, "The Simpsons," jigsaw puzzles, Walter Winchell's gossip columns, Whitman's poetry, Warhol's artwork, "Sesame Street," and the Book-of-the-Month Club.With wit and ingenuity Kammen lines the emergence of yankee mass tradition and the contested meanings of relaxation, style, client tradition, and social divisions that it has spawned.

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After lczokiisg at a uari-iev of cultural institutions in the Ullited States during the tater iirineteenth cerztumy, Neil IIarris reached a ~nuftiGaceted co~zclusio~z: Functioning within those institutions he found ""unstable mixtures of prescwation and pop~~iarizatior-r, dogmatism and tolerance, opposition to and acquiescence in mass taste," He saw a surprising blend of ""high and popular culture in unlikely places. . E n t r e p ~ e l l ~ u ~ ~ recog~irizedthe need for both and provided for tllem-but in carefully contro)led w q s , such as noncontip o u s locittjot~s.

But as Greenlrerg wrote in one of lris most celebrated essays: """T'he precondition for kitsch . . ""' I shall have muclr more to say alrc>utmass culture in chapter 8cri-lcical,albeit nest for the reasolls that prompted CSfreenberg and &lacdoi-rald to be. ta closing this introductov chapter, howevem; 1want to alert the reader ta several other centrat themes of the book First, 1 regard the haif centuv from 1885 to 1935 as the heydq of commercialized popular arlt~lrein the United Spates, from BuRato Riil's Wild %%TestShow to the demise ofirurlesqne and vaudeviIle, with a great deal Inme ululating in beweetn.

VtesSRc~narkat9fy egalitarian in tone, the essay sox~ghtto minimize any ix-revitable connection between class and taste, between social status and brow levels---a sure sign that tllis very issue had become vexing in Lktorian hnerica. 'T"here are people who are coarse and vulgar, and there are others who are refined and gentle; t9ut they cannot be distinguislred from each other by ally garb or circumstance apart from character, It is true that a certain leisure, with opporturniy for the cufti\ratioxl of taste and for the pursuit of social satisfaceions, favcors a life that may be caltecf gex-rtle, and that hard work and rough competition tend to coarsen the Inal-rrrers and tab the patrician tone fri-rtmthe speeclr.

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