Academic journal article American Studies

ELECTRIC DREAMLAND: Amusement Parks, Movies, and American Modernity

Academic journal article American Studies

ELECTRIC DREAMLAND: Amusement Parks, Movies, and American Modernity

Article excerpt

ELECTRIC DREAMLAND: Amusement Parks, Movies, and American Modernity. By Lauren Rabinovitz. New York: Columbia University Press. 2012.

Lauren Rabinovitz traces the coevolution of American cinema and amusement parks, posing provocative new questions about subjectivity and spectatorship at the turn of the twentieth century. She begins by framing these forms of entertainment as national phenomena that cannot be reduced to a single case study: "By 1910 every municipality with a population of more than twenty thousand had both amusement parks and motion picture theaters" (8). By examining the emergence of these venues across the country, Rabinovitz troubles the conventional narrative that the early amusement park was inherently democratizing. While Coney Island famously "allowed for commingling of immigrants," most parks were racially segregated. Some "catered exclusively to African Americans in both the North and the South," while others functioned as metaphorically and socially "white cities" (27-8). Rabinovitz explores how these sites were literally linked by interurban rails and ideologically linked by a shared vision of mechanized modernity. Even if amusement parks were not microcosms of the "melting pot," they still promulgated other national values, training Americans to enjoy the electrified urban landscape-including its attendant dangers (64).

The final chapters of this study lend even more depth to the rich, archival history with which it begins. In her discussion of pyrodramas, disaster shows, and other thrill rides, Rabinovitz lingers on the bodily motion and the streams of sound that accompanied visual spectacles. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.