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Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture Hardcover – April 19, 2007


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Although popular assumption might place the birth of teenage culture alongside the rise of rock 'n' roll in the 1950s, Savage (England's Dreaming) traces a more elaborate backstory that extends into the late 19th century. His catalogue of influences and indicators bounces from Goethe and Rimbaud to teenage girls' diaries, but the account only begins to pick up steam at the end of the First World War, as a generation of British youth reject the values of the elders who sent them into battle. Later, in the U.S., Prohibition not only taught booze-loving college students disrespect for the law, it put them in contact with a criminal underground that strengthened their subversive tendencies. The analysis of teen culture during the Second World War is particularly strong, moving from the Hitler Youth and rebellious " swing kids" in Germany to the Zoot Suit riots of Los Angeles and the "Zazou" movement of occupied Paris. Savage weaves his disparate sources into a convincing narrative of how adolescents were molded by political and cultural pressures into the consumer-friendly category of " teenager" by the end of WWII, but while individual anecdotes carry some verve, the writing never fully sheds its dry academic tone. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Savage's highly acclaimed history of the English punk movement (England's Dreaming, 1991)won praise for its enthusiastic yet penetrating portrayal of the anarchic Sex Pistols and the culture of frustration that fueled them. His latest book searches for the sources of youth culture, the "living in the now, pleasure-seeking, product-hungry" global phenomenon that both defines and is defined by consumerism. Reminding us that youth culture existed long before the 1950s--as demonstrated by Rimbaud, Wilde, and Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther, as well as Barrie's Peter Pan--Savage chronicles the fitful evolution of our understanding of adolescence as well as the changing (and unchanging) activities of teenagers in the early twentieth century. As with his previous work, the author adeptly situates pop-culture trends within broader cultural shifts: the relationship between youth-icon Rudolph Valentino and changing sexual mores, for example. In doing so, however, Savage pays particular and lengthy attention to war's ability to separate generations as well as to crush and/or heighten the manic impulses of youth. The result is an enlightening and serious analysis of modernity itself, as nuanced as it is ambitious. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (April 19, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670038377
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670038374
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #815,957 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Clary Antome on August 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is much more than a mere enquiry into the origins of youth culture - it is actually an absorbing historical account of what young people (in Western Europe and the USA) have experienced as the world underwent two big wars, a great economic crash, and several ideological experiments (from communism to fascism to "consumerism").

There seems to be an underlying question throughout Savage's quite detailed (and carefully researched) chronicle of youth from the mid-19th century to 1945: what happens when you have a) an economic system that needs to continually develop and expand in order to keep functioning (what we can summarize as "industrial society" or "capitalism"); and b) an oversupply of individuals who have to be organized in accordance with that system's necessities/aims (what we call "the mass")? The answer: you make youth, the most volatile and vigorous social cohort, instrumental - the pivotal point around which society defines (and renews) itself.
Savage shows how from their organization around schools, factories and all kinds of diversions in times of peace, to their incorporation into armies in times of war, young people in industrial societies have been exposed to several more or less successful experiments in the complicated art of social management. Thus their energies were either channelled into productive and leisurely activities when the system of industrial production was focused on commercial expansion (developing a stunning variety of mass entertainments, fashion industries, etc) - or they were used as a violently destructive force when the system was concerned with geopolitical expansion (most clearly visible in WWI and WWII and colonialism).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By takingadayoff TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The concept of teenagers as a group separate from children and adults is relatively new. It wasn't until World War II that the word existed and that was in response to advertisers who realized that young people had money to spend. But teenagers weren't invented during the 1940s. In writing the history of teenagers from Victorian times until World War II, author Jon Savage has shown that their history is our history. They don't govern nations or run companies, but they fight wars, earn money, commit crimes and when it comes to movies and music, it's teenagers who decide the trends.

Savage defines teenage loosely, as being from about age twelve to mid-twenties. Teenagers aren't children anymore, but they don't have the responsibilities or the experience of adults. They are like adults who haven't mastered their emotional volume control yet. Their highs are higher and their lows are lower than adults who've learned to expect disappointments and are too self conscious to enjoy with abandon. Teenagers have their lives ahead of them and anything is possible. They have little to lose and can take risks that most adults wouldn't dare.

Teenage is full of interesting stories of trend-setting teenagers such as Oscar Wilde and Arthur Rimbaud, but it's not until World War I that teenagers became really influential. With the invention of movies and radio, teenagers became the early-adopters of their times. Rudolph Valentino's fame and the reaction to his death and funeral remind me of the arrival of the Beatles in New York. Leopold and Loeb killed a child and thought they were too smart to get caught. When they were caught, they acted like celebrities during the trial, wearing stylish clothes and attracting an ardent following of young admirers.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sam Adams on July 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The title is misleading. A better one would be: Rebel Youth: The Disaffection of Adolescence and the Adult Response, 1875 to 1945. A secondary theme is the Rise of Popular Culture as Youth Culture. The book does not describe how adolescents lived during the seventy year period, but how adolescents rebelled against the world of adults and how adults responded. The rise of the entertainment industry, popular music and film, is also very lightly sketched. The book is divided into seven periods: 1875-1904, 1904-1913, 1912-1919, 1919-1929, 1930-1939, 1939-1943, 1942-1945. Endnotes acknowledge sources and thereby offer references for further reading, but the referenced books are not then conveniently listed together in a bibliography.

A major topic covered is youth and war. War obviously affects the views and emotional attitudes of everyone and especially those who are within the age or approaching the age of military involvement, and so the two world wars of the 20th century, and those which followed, were certainly influential periods in the evolution of youth culture. The war of 1914-1918 is treated as a catastrophic mistake, as if Germany would have peacefully backed down if only Britain and France hadn't been so intransigent in their own belligerent self-defense. The war dead of Britain are discussed as if Britain itself murdered them. This moral insult is not repeated in the discussion of WWII.
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