Feast of Excess: A Cultural History of the New Sensibility

Hardcover | December 11, 2015

byGeorge Cotkin

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In 1952, John Cage shocked audiences with 4'33," his composition showcasing the power of silence. From Cage's minimalism to Chris Burden's radical performance art two decades later, the post-war avant-garde sought to liberate the art world by shattering the divide between high and low art. Feast of Excess presents an engaging and accessible portrait of the cultural extremism that emerged in the United States after World War II. This "New Sensibility," as termed by Susan Sontag, was predicated upon excess, pushing and often crossing boundaries whether in the direction of minimalism ormaximalism. Through brief vignette profiles of prominent figures in literature, music, visual art, poetry, theater and journalism, George Cotkin leads readers on a focused journey through the interconnected stories of prominent figures such as Andy Warhol, Anne Sexton, John Cage, John Coltrane, BobDylan, Erica Jong, and Chris Burden, among many others, who broke barriers between artist and audience with their bold, shocking, and headline-grabbing performances. This inventive narrative captures the sentiment of liberation from high and low culture in artistic endeavors spanning from the 1950s to the 1970s and reveals the establishment of excess in American culture as the norm. A detailed emersion in the history of cultural extremism, Feast of Excess leavesreaders to consider the provocative revelation that the essence of excess remains in our culture today, for good and ill.

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In 1952, John Cage shocked audiences with 4'33," his composition showcasing the power of silence. From Cage's minimalism to Chris Burden's radical performance art two decades later, the post-war avant-garde sought to liberate the art world by shattering the divide between high and low art. Feast of Excess presents an engaging and acce...

George Cotkin is Professor of History at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. His previous books include Existential America, Morality's Muddy Waters, and Dive Deeper: Journeys with Moby Dick.

other books by George Cotkin

Format:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:December 11, 2015Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0190218479

ISBN - 13:9780190218478

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The New SensibilityJudith Malina: Prelude: A New Year: Judith MalinaEmergence, 1952-19601. John Cage: 1952: Sounds of Silence: John Cage2. 1953: Erasure and Addition: Robert Rauschenberg3. 1954: The Wild One: Marlon Brando4. 1955: Ever Mysterious: Patricia Highsmith5. 1956: Howling in the Wilderness: Allen Ginsberg6. 1957: 'Great Balls of Fire': Jerry Lee Lewis7. 1958: To 'Nullify Explanation': Robert Frank8. 1959: Making a Connection: Judith Malina and Jack Gelber9. 1960: All About Me: Norman MailerExplosion, 1961-196910. 1961: Say What? : Lenny Bruce11. 1962: Pop Goes the Paradigm12. 1963: Picking His Nose at Tradition: Andy Warhol13. 1964: Naming the New: Susan Sontag14. 1965: 'How Does It Feel?': John Coltrane and Bob Dylan15. 1966: Living and Dying: Anne Sexton16. 1967: 'Utmost Freedom of Imagination': William Styron17. 1968: An 'Extreme Gesture': Gore VidalCultural Commonplace, 1970-197418. 1969: 'Terribleness': Amiri Baraka19. 1970: 'I Just Love Freaks': Diane Arbus20. 1971: Vegas, Baby!: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Hunter Thompson21. 1972: Erectile Destruction: Samuel R. Delany and Thomas Pynchon22. 1973: Zipless Abandon: Erica Jong23. 1974: Crucified and Shot: Chris BurdenConclusion: The Shock of the Old - and NewIndex

Editorial Reviews

"George Cotkin brings his signature inventiveness and subtlety to an American cultural period and style that previously lacked a name. Feast of Excess makes vividly real the ragged debauchery and blunt-force iconoclasm of the New Sensibility of extravagance of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. This is anutterly arresting book." --Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen, author of American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas