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Modernist America: Art, Music, Movies, and the Globalization of American Culture Paperback – June 12, 2012

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his impressive new study, Pells (Radical Visions and American Dreams) works to dispel the common misconception that Modernism originated in America. He argues that Modernist America was a land not of invention, but of adaptation, blossoming through a mutual transatlantic relationship, mass immigration, and a healthy "disregard for cultural borders." Pells surveys the power of art in the 20th century, looking at the ways in which Picasso and Cubism, Futurism, and stream-of-consciousness literature influenced artists, such as Jackson Pollock, and subsequent movements. He examines the influx of European intellectuals during WWII, which stimulated a new era of creativity infused with non-American ideologies. Architectural celebrities Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier, indebted to the Bauhaus, transformed cities; and the skyscraper became a symbol of the modern age. When Hollywood faltered, the French New Wave and Italian Neorealism took center stage and influenced American cinema. The author's cultural appraisal of evolving musical tastes is nothing short of extraordinary; he begins in the 20th century, with "...in the history of Western modernism, the unrivaled American contribution...had always been jazz," then tracks back, folding in early Hollywood musicals (which introduced the world to Gershwin, Berlin, Porter, Bernstein, and others) and even Tin Pan Alley. Debates over high and low art, and the avant-garde vs. popular culture, rage throughout this absorbing volume. (Mar.) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“[T]here is much to enjoy here . . . a rousing jaunt through a period of remarkable upheavals in entertainment and the arts.”—The Wall Street Journal
(The Wall Street Journal)

“Debates over high and low art, and the avant-garde vs. popular culture, rage throughout this absorbing volume.”—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

"Richard Pells's book leaps, lunges, gallops, and, once in a while, pirouettes its way toward something very close toa unified field theory of twentieth-century American culture."—Gene Seymour, Bookforum
(Gene Seymour Bookforum)

"Pells writes with grace and accessibility about big ideas, and he’s a master of synthesizing disparate materials and figures, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Miles Davis to Robert Altman. This is among the most lively multidisciplinary arts studies I’ve ever read, especially in its focus on cross-pollination between the U.S. and other parts of the world." –Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News Arts Blog
(Chris Vognar Dallas Morning News)

“Pells serves as an engagingly interesting and learned guide . . . Pells’ reading of American art, music, and movies is at its freshest and is most destabilizing of the easy generalities that we wrap around the products of American culture.” —Daniel T. Rodgers, Reviews in American History
(Daniel T. Rodgers Reviews in American History)

“[Pells’] book crackles with intellectual energy and showcases a formidable body of knowledge that leaps across all kinds of barriers. . . . Pells tackles big ideas in prose clear and accessible enough to make you forget you’re reading an academic text. He can talk John Wayne and Igor Stravinsky. You could say he’s a pretty modern guy.” —Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News
(Chris Vognar Dallas Morning News)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (June 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300181736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300181739
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,767,637 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This book is on the Rorotoko list. Professor Pells's interview on "Modernist America" ran as the Rorotoko Cover Feature on May 30, 2011 (and can be read in the Rorotoko archive).
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