Dancing Fools and Weary Blues: The Great Escape of the Twenties

Dancing Fools and Weary Blues: The Great Escape of the Twenties

Dancing Fools and Weary Blues: The Great Escape of the Twenties

Dancing Fools and Weary Blues: The Great Escape of the Twenties


Often, the decade of the 1920s has been stereotyped with such labels as The Roaring Twenties, The Jazz Age, or The Lost Generation. Historical perspective has forced reevaluation of this decade. Articles in this collection are presented in the most definitive anthology dealing with 1920s America.

The contributors have put aside stereotypes to offer a valuable critique of the American dream during a time of major crises. "Dancing Fools and Weary Blues" also presents its readers a picture of the continual redemption and revitalization of that dream, and reasserts its basic democratic values."


This book is offered in the conviction that it represents a definitive, scholarly researched anthology dealing with the decade of the 1920s in America. All too often productive exploration of that vital period of our national experience has drowned in a sea of antithesis. No decade in our cultural history has accrued such an explosion of contradictory slogans and orotund pronouncements—often at the expense of both common sense and consistency. Convenient clichés and tags may be useful, and in fact contain a degree of mythological truth, but more often such stereotypes obscure the diversity, complexity, and paradox they pretend to illuminate. Inevitably this single-minded approach undermines honest evaluation, leading instead to what might be defined as an excess of unreconciled historical and cultural formulation.

For too long the decade has been stereotyped with such convenient labels as "The Roaring Twenties," "The gayest, gaudiest spree in history," "The Jazz Age," or "The Lost Generation." While such definitions may be verifiable in the eye of the beholder, depending upon his point of view or emphasis, historical perspective has forced considerable reevaluation of a generation that appears to have spun off shibboleths at a faster pace than they could be questioned or verified. How, for example, does one reconcile Harding's "Return to Normalcy" with Fitzgerald's documentation of "Babylon"? Such sloganeering has gravitated into the folklore of the Twenties where it tends to persist as popular nostalgia. The fact is that Harding's call for "Normalcy" is hardly consistent with the Teapot Dome scandals of his own administration; and Fitzgerald's "Babylon" produced as much moral outrage in the hinterland as hedonism in Bohemia. In his comprehensive survey of the period (Chapter 1) Amos St. Germain remarks on the dualities and myths of the decade: "It is very easy to think of the '20s in terms of popular images. But such stereotypes were created and endured because they contained some truth. However, to see the 1920s only as the period of the 'flappers' or of the 'lost generation' or to sum up the period with terms such as 'big business domination' and 'isolation' is to ignore the complexity of the time."

Virtually every one of the contributors to this anthology has begun by putting aside stereotypes and balancing particulars against popular mythology. Thus Elizabeth Stevenson weighs the Flappers in the Twenties with "Some Who Were Not Flappers" and she contrasts the "world of the speakeasies and flappers and gangsters" with "a great, dull, small-town space labeled Main Street or Middletown where the generation just older than the Flappers...are occupying the foreground and doing a respectable fox . . .

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