American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture

American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture

American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture

American Sensations: Class, Empire, and the Production of Popular Culture

Synopsis

""American Sensations is an erudite and sweeping cultural history of the sensationalist literatures and mass cultures of the American 1848. It is the finest book yet written on the U.S.-Mexican War, and how it was central to the making and unmaking of U.S. mass culture, class, and racial formation."--Jose David Saldivar, author of "Border Matters: Remapping American Cultural Studies

"A major work that will challenge current paradigms of nineteenth-century literature and culture. "American Sensations brilliantly succeeds in remapping the volatile and shifting terrain of both national identity and literary history in the mid-nineteenth century."--Amy Kaplan, co-editor of "Cultures of United States Imperialism

Excerpt

The argument of this book is that an understanding of the U. S.-Mexican War (1846–1848) and mid-nineteenth-century empire building is required in order to understand the histories of race, nativism, labor, politics, and popular and mass culture in the United States. The popular literature that I examine in American Sensations both responded to and helped to define the shifting parameters of nineteenth-century U. S. racial formations, which were powerfully affected by the Gold Rush, the U. S. Mexican War, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and imperial projects in the Caribbean. The sensational literature of empire also brings into focus the long history of anti-immigrant, nativist movements, which have continued to be an important force in the United States, especially during periods of economic crisis. In addition, this literature makes it clear that working-class institutions, cultures, and movements have responded in diverse ways to debates about U. S. expansion, immigration, and, more generally, the relationship between the United States and the other Americas. Finally, I have tried to show that all of these issues are central to the popular and mass cultures that emerged in the mid–nineteenth century in the wake of the print and transportation revolutions; these forms of popular and mass culture, moreover, importantly influenced later forms of popular entertainment, particularly twentieth-century films. In all of these ways, the U. S.-Mexican War, which some have called a “forgotten war, ” as well as various imperial ventures throughout the Americas, have crucially shaped U. S. politics and culture.

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