The New Nation

The New Nation

The New Nation

The New Nation

Synopsis

At the birth of the nation, citizens were forging a popular culture to call their own. People from all classes-farmers, merchants, and the educated wealthy-turned away from European culture and began to recognize America's own prodigies. This volume presents the nation's earliest art, architecture, fashions, entertainments, and hobbies, all of which would evolve into the uniquely American popular culture we recognize today.

Excerpt

Popular culture is the system of attitudes, behavior, beliefs, customs, and tastes that defines the people of any society. It is the entertainments, diversions, icons, rituals, and actions that shape the everyday world. It is what we do while we are awake and what we dream about while we are asleep. It is the way of life we inherit, practice, change, and then pass on to our descendants.

Popular culture is an extension of folk culture, the culture of the people. With the rise of electronic media and the increase in communication in American culture, folk culture expanded into popular culture—the daily way of life as shaped by the popular majority of society. Especially in a democracy like the United States, popular culture has become both the voice of the people and the force that shapes the nation. in 1782, the French commentator Hector St. Jean de Crevecoeur asked in his Letters from an American Farmer, “What is an American?” He answered that such a person is the creation of America and is in turn the creator of the country's culture. Indeed, notions of the American Dream have been long grounded in the dream of democracy—that is, government by the people, or popular rule. Thus, popular culture is tied fundamentally to America and the dreams of its people.

Historically, culture analysts have tried to fine-tune culture into two categories: “elite”—the elements of culture (fine art, literature, classical music, gourmet food, etc.) that supposedly define the best of society— and “popular”—the elements of culture (comic strips, best-sellers, pop music, fast food, etc.) that appeal to society's lowest common denominator. the so-called educated person approved of elite culture and scoffed at popular culture. This schism first began to develop in western . . .

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