University of Virginia Press

Cultural Frames, Framing Culture

Robert Newman

Published by: University of Virginia Press

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Cultural Frames, Framing Culture

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American Iconographic

National Geographic, Global Culture, and the Visual Imagination

Tracing the National Geographic's rise to prominence during the first half of the 20th c., Stephanie Hawkins argues that far from being merely a handbook of Western imperialism or a venue for exotic display, the magazine created a forum for the negotiation of changing attitudes toward national identity, cultural diversity, and global interconnectedness. Its readers responded in complex ways to the magazine's iconic public image and were not at all the passive spectators they have been assumed to be.

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American Road Narratives

Reimagining Mobility in Literature and Film

Ann Brigham

The freedom to go anywhere and become anyone has profoundly shaped our national psyche. Transforming our sense of place and identity--whether in terms of social and economic status, or race and ethnicity, or gender and sexuality—American mobility is perhaps nowhere more vividly captured than in the image of the open road. From pioneer trails to the latest car commercial, the road looms large as a form of expansiveness and opportunity.

Too often it is the celebratory idea of the road as a free-floating zone moving the traveler beyond the typical concerns of space and time that dominates the discussion. Rather than thinking of mobility as an escape from cultural tensions, however, Ann Brigham proposes that we understand mobility as a mode of engagement with them. She explores the genre of road narratives to show how mobility both thrives on and attempts to manage shifting conflicts about space and society in the United States.

From the earliest transcontinental automobile narratives from the 1910s, through classics like Jack Kerouac's On the Road and the film Thelma & Louise, up to post-9/11 narratives, Brigham traces the ways in which mobility has been imagined, created, and interrogated over the past century and shows how mobility promises, and threatens, to incorporate the outsider and to blur boundaries. Bringing together textual and cultural analysis, theories of spatiality, and sociohistorical frameworks, this book offers an invigoratingly different view of mobility and a new understanding of the road narrative’s importance in American culture.

Cultural Frames, Framing Culture

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The Arresting Eye

Race and the Anxiety of Detection

Jinny Huh

In her reading of detective fiction and passing narratives from the end of the nineteenth century forward, Jinny Huh investigates anxieties about race and detection. Adopting an interdisciplinary and comparative approach, she examines the racial formations of African Americans and Asian Americans not only in detective fiction (from Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan to the works of Pauline Hopkins) but also in narratives centered on detection itself (such as Winnifred Eaton’s rhetoric of undetection in her Japanese romances). In explicating the literary depictions of race-detection anxiety, Huh demonstrates how cultural, legal, and scientific discourses across diverse racial groups were also struggling with demands for racial decipherability. Anxieties of detection and undetection, she concludes, are not mutually exclusive but mutually dependent on each other's construction and formation in American history and culture.

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Composing Cultures

Modernism, American Literary Studies, and the Problem of Culture

Eric Aronoff

The term "culture" has become ubiquitous in both academic and popular conversations, but its usefulness is a point of dispute. Taking the current shift from cultural studies to aesthetics as the latest form of this discussion, Eric Aronoff contends that in American modernism, the concepts of culture and of aesthetics have always been inseparable. The modernist concept of culture, he argues, arose out of an interdisciplinary dialogue about value, meaning, and form among social critics, artists, anthropologists, and literary critics, including figures as diverse as Van Wyck Brooks, Edward Sapir, Willa Cather, Lewis Mumford, John Crowe Ransom, Raymond Weaver, and Allen Tate. These figures proposed new ways to conceive of culture that intertwined theories of aesthetic and literary value with theories of national, racial, and regional identity. Through close readings, Aronoff shows that disciplines and approaches that are often thought of as opposed—cultural anthropology and aesthetics, American literary history and literary criticism, and multiculturalism and regionalism—are in fact engaged in common debate and proceed from shared arguments about culture and form.

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Failed Frontiersmen

White Men and Myth in the Post-Sixties American Historical Romance

James J. Donahue

In Failed Frontiersmen, James Donahue writes that one of the founding and most persistent mythologies of the United States is that of the American frontier. Looking at a selection of twentieth-century American male fiction writers—E. L. Doctorow, John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, Ishmael Reed, Gerald Vizenor, and Cormac McCarthy—he shows how they reevaluated the historical romance of frontier mythology in response to the social and political movements of the 1960s (particularly regarding the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the treatment of Native Americans). Although these writers focus on different moments in American history and different geographic locations, the author reveals their commonly held belief that the frontier mythology failed to deliver on its promises of cultural stability and political advancement, especially in the face of the multicultural crucible of the 1960s.

Cultural Frames, Framing Culture
American Literatures Initiative

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Fashion and Fiction

Self-Transformation in Twentieth-Century American Literature

Lauren S. Cardon

During the twentieth century, the rise of the concept of Americanization—shedding ethnic origins and signs of "otherness" to embrace a constructed American identity—was accompanied by a rhetoric of personal transformation that would ultimately characterize the American Dream. The theme of self-transformation has remained a central cultural narrative in American literary, political, and sociological texts ranging from Jamestown narratives to immigrant memoirs, from slave narratives to Gone with the Wind, and from the rags-to-riches stories of Horatio Alger to the writings of Barack Obama. Such rhetoric feeds American myths of progress, upward mobility, and personal reinvention.

In Fashion and Fiction, Lauren S. Cardon draws a correlation between the American fashion industry and early twentieth-century literature. As American fashion diverged from a class-conscious industry governed by Parisian designers to become more commercial and democratic, she argues, fashion designers and journalists began appropriating the same themes of self-transformation to market new fashion trends. Cardon illustrates how canonical twentieth-century American writers, including Edith Wharton, Theodore Dreiser, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Nella Larsen, symbolically used clothing to develop their characters and their narrative of upward mobility. As the industry evolved, Cardon shows, the characters in these texts increasingly enjoyed opportunities for individual expression and identity construction, allowing for temporary performances that offered not escapism but a testing of alternate identities in a quest for self-discovery.

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Male Armor

The Soldier-Hero in Contemporary American Culture

Jon Robert Adams

There is no shortage of iconic masculine imagery of the soldier in American film and literature—one only has to think of George C. Scott as Patton in front of a giant American flag, Sylvester Stallone as Rambo, or Burt Lancaster rolling around in the surf in From Here to Eternity. In Male Armor, Jon Robert Adams examines the ways in which novels, plays, and films about America’s late-twentieth-century wars reflect altering perceptions of masculinity in the culture at large. He highlights the gap between the cultural conception of masculinity and the individual experience of it, and exposes the myth of war as an experience that verifies manhood.

Drawing on a wide range of work, from the war novels of Ernest Hemingway, Norman Mailer, James Jones, and Joseph Heller to David Rabe’s play Streamers and Anthony Swofford’s Jarhead, Adams examines the evolving image of the soldier from World War I to Operation Desert Storm. In discussing these changing perceptions of masculinity, he reveals how works about war in the late twentieth century attempt to eradicate inconsistencies among American civilian conceptions of war, the military’s expectations of the soldier, and the soldier’s experience of combat. Adams argues that these inconsistencies are largely responsible not only for continuing support of the war enterprise but also for the soldiers’ difficulty in reintegration to civilian society upon their return. He intends Male Armor to provide a corrective to the public’s continued investment in the war enterprise as a guarantor both of masculinity and, by extension, of the nation.

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Quirks of the Quantum

Postmodernism and Contemporary American Fiction

Samuel Chase Coale

Episodic and disconnected, much of postmodern fiction mirrors the world as quantum theorists describe it, according to Samuel Chase Coale. In Quirks of the Quantum, Coale shows how the doubts, misgivings, and ambiguities reflected in the postmodern American novel have been influenced by the metaphors and models of quantum theory. Coale explains the basic facets of quantum theory in lay terms and then applies them to a selection of texts, including Don DeLillo's Underworld, Joan Didion's Democracy, and Thomas Pynchon's Against the Day. Using a new approach to literature and culture, this book aims to bridge the gap between science and the humanities by suggesting the many areas where they connect.

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Visions of the Maid

Joan of Arc in American Film and Culture

Robin Blaetz

Representations of Joan of Arc have been used in the United States for the past two hundred years, appearing in advertising, cartoons, popular song, art, criticism, and propaganda. The presence of the fifteenth-century French heroine in the cinema is particularly intriguing in relation to the role of women during wartime. Robin Blaetz argues that a mythic Joan of Arc was used during the First World War to cast a medieval glow over an unpopular war, but that she only appeared after the Second World War to encourage women to abandon their wartime jobs and return to the home.

In Visions of the Maid, Blaetz examines three pivotal films—Cecil B. DeMille's 1916 Joan the Woman, Victor Fleming's 1948 Joan of Arc, and Otto Preminger's 1957 Saint Joan—as well as addressing a broad array of popular culture references and every other film about the heroine made or distributed in the United States. Blaetz is particularly concerned with issues of gender and the ways in which Joan of Arc's androgyny, virginity, and sacrificial victimhood were evoked in relation to the evolving roles of women during war throughout the twentieth century.

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