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American Cinema of the 1920s

Themes and Variations

Edited by Lucy Fischer

In ten original essays, American Cinema of the 1920s examines the film industry's continued growth and prosperity while focusing on important themes of the era that witnessed the birth of the star system that supported the meteoric rise and celebrity status of actors including Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and Rudolph Valentino while black performers (relegated to "race films") appeared infrequently in mainstream movies.

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American Cinema of the 1960s

Themes and Variations

Edited by Barry Keith Grant

The profound cultural and political changes of the 1960s brought the United States closer to social revolution than at any other time in the twentieth century. At the same time, American cinema underwent radical change as well. The studio system crumbled, and the Production Code was replaced by a new ratings system. Among the challenges faced by the film industry was the dawning shift in theatrical exhibition from urban centers to suburban multiplexes, an increase in runaway productions, the rise of independent producers, and competition from both television and foreign art films. Hollywood movies became more cynical, violent, and sexually explicit, reflecting the changing values of the time. In ten original essays, American Cinema of the 1960s examines a range of films that characterized the decade, including Hollywood movies, documentaries, and independent and experimental films.

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American Cinema of the 1970s

Themes and Variations

Edited by Lester Friedman

A smug glance at the seventies-the so-called "Me Decade"-unveils a kaleidoscope of big hair, blaring music, and broken politics-all easy targets for satire, cynicism, and ultimately even nostalgia. American Cinema of the 1970s, however, looks beyond the strobe lights to reveal how profoundly the seventies have influenced American life and how the films of that decade represent a peak moment in cinema history. Far from a placid era, the seventies was a decade of social upheavals. Events such as the killing of students at Kent State and Jackson State universities, the Watergate investigations, the legalization of abortion, and the end of the American involvement in Vietnam are only a few among the many landmark occurrences that challenged the foundations of American culture. The director-driven movies of this era reflect this turmoil, experimenting with narrative structures, offering a gallery of scruffy antiheroes, and revising traditional genre conventions.

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American Cinema of the 1980s

Themes and Variations

Edited by Stephen Prince

During the 1980s, American cinema underwent enormous transformations. Blockbusters like Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., and The Empire Strikes Back grabbed huge revenues for the studios. At the same time, the growth of home video led to new and creative opportunities for independent film production, resulting in many of the decade's best films. Both large- and small-scale filmmakers responded to the social, political, and cultural conditions of the time. Also during this time, Hollywood launched a long-awaited cycle of films about the Vietnam War, exploring its impact both at home and abroad. But science fiction remained the era's most popular genre, ranging from upbeat fantasies to dark, dystopic visions. Bringing together original essays by ten respected scholars in the field, American Cinema of the 1980s examines the films that marked the decade.

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American Cinema of the 1990s

Themes and Variations

Edited by Christine Holmlund

With the U.S. economy booming under President Bill Clinton and the cold war finally over, many Americans experienced peace and prosperity in the nineties. Digital technologies gained popularity, with nearly one billion people online by the end of the decade. The film industry wondered what the effect on cinema would be.The essays in American Cinema of the 1990s examine the big-budget blockbusters and critically acclaimed independent films that defined the decade. The 1990s' most popular genre, action, channeled anxieties about global threats such as AIDS and foreign terrorist attacks into escapist entertainment movies. Horror films and thrillers were on the rise, but family-friendly pictures and feel-good romances netted big audiences too. Meanwhile, independent films captured hearts, engaged minds, and invaded Hollywood: by decade's end every studio boasted its own "art film" affiliate.

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American Cinema of the 2000s

Themes and Variations

Edited by Timothy Corrigan

The decade from 2000 to 2009 is framed, at one end, by the traumatic catastrophe of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and, at the other, by the election of the first African American president of the United States. In between, the United States and the world witnessed the rapid expansion of new media and the Internet, such natural disasters as Hurricane Katrina, political uprisings around the world, and a massive meltdown of world economies.

Amid these crises and revolutions, American films responded in multiple ways, sometimes directly reflecting these turbulent times, and sometimes indirectly couching history in traditional genres and stories. In American Cinema of the 2000s, essays from ten top film scholars examine such popular series as the groundbreaking Matrix films and the gripping adventures of former CIA covert operative Jason Bourne; new, offbeat films like Juno; and the resurgence of documentaries like Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11.  Each essay demonstrates the complex ways in which American culture and American cinema are bound together in subtle and challenging ways.

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American Dictators

Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine

Steven Hart

One man was tongue-tied and awkward around women, in many ways a mama's boy at heart, although his reputation for thuggery was well earned. The other was a playboy, full of easy charm and ready jokes, his appetite for high living a matter of public record. One man tolerated gangsters and bootleggers as long as they paid their dues to his organization. The other was effectively a gangster himself, so crooked that he hosted a national gathering of America's most ruthless killers. One man never drank alcohol. The other, from all evidence, seldom drank anything else.

American Dictators is the dual biography of two of America’s greatest political bosses: Frank Hague and Enoch “Nucky” Johnson. Packed with compelling information and written in an informal, sometimes humorous style, the book shows Hague and Johnson at the peak of their power and the strength of their political machines during the years of Prohibition and the Great Depression. Steven Hart compares how both men used their influence to benefit and punish the local citizenry, amass huge personal fortunes, and sometimes collaborate to trounce their enemies.

Similar in their ruthlessness, both men were very different in appearance and temperament. Hague, the mayor of Jersey City, intimidated presidents and wielded unchallenged power for three decades. He never drank and was happily married to his wife for decades. He also allowed gangsters to run bootlegging and illegal gambling operations as long as they paid protection money. Johnson, the political boss of Atlantic City, and the inspiration for the hit HBO series Boardwalk Empire, presided over corruption as well, but for a shorter period of time. He was notorious for his decadent lifestyle. Essentially a gangster himself, Johnson hosted the infamous Atlantic City conference that fostered the growth of organized crime.

Both Hague and Johnson shrewdly integrated otherwise disenfranchised groups into their machines and gave them a stake in political power. Yet each failed to adapt to changing demographics and circumstances. In American Dictators, Hart paints a balanced portrait of their accomplishments and their failures.

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American Girls and Global Responsibility

A New Relation to the World during the Early Cold War

Jennifer Helgren

American Girls and Global Responsibility brings together insights from Cold War culture studies, girls’ studies, and the history of gender and militarization to shed new light on how age and gender work together to form categories of citizenship.
 
Jennifer Helgren argues that a new internationalist girl citizenship took root in the country in the years following World War II in youth organizations such as Camp Fire Girls, Girl Scouts, YWCA Y-Teens, schools, and even magazines like Seventeen. She shows the particular ways that girls’ identities and roles were configured, and reveals the links between internationalist youth culture, mainstream U.S. educational goals, and the U.S. government in creating and marketing that internationalist girl, thus shaping the girls’ sense of responsibilities as citizens. 

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American Hybrid Poetics

Gender, Mass Culture, and Form

Amy Moorman Robbins

 American Hybrid Poetics explores the ways in which hybrid poetics—a playful mixing of disparate formal and aesthetic strategies—have been the driving force in the work of a historically and culturally diverse group of women poets who are part of a robust tradition in contesting the dominant cultural order.  Amy Moorman Robbins examines the ways in which five poets—Gertrude Stein, Laura Mullen, Alice Notley, Harryette Mullen, and Claudia Rankine—use hybridity as an implicitly political strategy to interrupt mainstream American language, literary genres, and visual culture, and expose the ways in which mass culture in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has had a powerfully standardizing impact on the collective American imagination. By forcing encounters between incompatible traditions—consumer culture with the avant-garde, low culture forms with experimental poetics, prose poetry with linguistic subversiveness—these poets bring together radically competing ideologies and highlight their implications for lived experience. Robbins argues that it is precisely because these poets have mixed forms that their work has gone largely unnoticed by leading members and critics in experimental poetry circles.


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An American in the Making

The Life Story of an Immigrant

M. E. Ravage and Edited by Steven G. Kellman

M.E. Ravage, one of almost two million Jews, was lured by tales of success to America at the turn of the twentieth century. After learning a new language and finding success in college he penned a vivid account of his own assimilation. Steven G. Kellman brings Ravage's story to life again in this new edition, providing a brief biography and historical and literary contexts. An American in the Making contributes to an understanding of the notion of "America" and remains timely, especially when massive immigration from Latin America and Asia, challenges ideas of national identity.

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