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Themes and Variations
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.
Themes and Variations
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.
Themes and Variations
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.
Frank Hague, Nucky Johnson, and the Perfection of the Urban Political Machine
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.
Gender, Mass Culture, and Form
The Life Story of an Immigrant
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.
The American labor movement seemed poised on the threshold of unparalleled success at the beginning of the post-World War II era. Fourteen million strong in 1946, unions represented thirty five percent of non-agricultural workers. Why then did the gains made between the 1930s and the end of the war produce so few results by the 1960s?
This collection addresses the history of labor in the postwar years by exploring the impact of the global contest between the United States and the Soviet Union on American workers and labor unions. The essays focus on the actual behavior of Americans in their diverse workplaces and communities during the Cold War. Where previous scholarship on labor and the Cold War has overemphasized the importance of the Communist Party, the automobile industry, and Hollywood, this book focuses on politically moderate, conservative workers and union leaders, the medium-sized cities that housed the majority of the population, and the Roman Catholic Church. These are all original essays that draw upon extensive archival research and some upon oral history sources.
Constructions of Depression in the Twentieth Century
In American Melancholy, Laura D. Hirshbein traces the growth of depression as an object of medical study and as a consumer commodity and illustrates how and why depression came to be such a huge medical, social, and cultural phenomenon. This is the first book to address gender issues in the construction of depression, explores key questions of how its diagnosis was developed, how it has been used, and how we should question its application in American society.
A Reader, 1894-1930
In North America between 1894 and 1930, the rise of the "New Woman" sparked controversy on both sides of the Atlantic and around the world. As she demanded a public voice as well as private fulfillment through work, education, and politics, American journalists debated and defined her. Who was she and where did she come from? Was she to be celebrated as the agent of progress or reviled as a traitor to the traditional family? Over time, the dominant version of the American New Woman became typified as white, educated, and middle class: the suffragist, progressive reformer, and bloomer-wearing bicyclist. By the 1920s, the jazz-dancing flapper epitomized her. Yet she also had many other faces. Bringing together a diverse range of essays from the periodical press of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Martha H. Patterson shows how the New Woman differed according to region, class, politics, race, ethnicity, and historical circumstance. In addition to the New Woman's prevailing incarnations, she appears here as a gun-wielding heroine, imperialist symbol, assimilationist icon, entrepreneur, socialist, anarchist, thief, vamp, and eugenicist. Together, these readings redefine our understanding of the New Woman and her cultural impact.
The only comprehensive and up-to-date look at Reform Judaism, this book analyzes the forces currently challenging the Reform movement, now the largest Jewish denomination in the United States.
To distinguish itself from Orthodox and Conservative Judaism, the Reform movement tries to be an egalitarian, open, and innovative version of the faith true to the spirit of the tradition but nonetheless fully compatible with modern secular life. Promoting itself in this way, Reform Judaism has been tremendously successful in recruiting a variety of people—intermarried families, feminists, gays and lesbians, and interracial families among others—who resist more traditional forms of worship.
As an unintended result of this success, the movement now struggles with an identity crisis brought on by its liberal theology, which teaches that each Jew is free to practice Judaism more or less as he or she pleases. In the absence of the authority that comes from a theology based on a commanding, all-powerful God, can Reform Judaism continue to thrive? Can it be broadly inclusive and still be uniquely and authentically Jewish?
Taking this question as his point of departure, Dana Evan Kaplan provides a broad overview of the American Reform movement and its history, theology, and politics. He then takes a hard look at the challenges the movement faces as it attempts to reinvent itself in the new millennium. In so doing, Kaplan gives the reader a sense of where Reform Judaism has come from, where it stands on the major issues, and where it may be going.
Addressing the issues that have confronted the movement—including the ordination of women, acceptance of homosexuality, the problem of assimilation, the question of rabbinic officiation at intermarriages, the struggle for acceptance in Israel, and Jewish education and others—Kaplan sheds light on the connection between Reform ideology and cultural realities. He unflinchingly, yet optimistically, assesses the movement’s future and cautions that stormy weather may be ahead.