Freak Shows And The Modern American Imagination: Constructing The Damaged Body From Willa Cather To…

Paperback | September 15, 2011

byThomas Fahy

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Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination examines the artistic use of freak shows between 1900 and 1950. During this period, the freak show shifted from a highly popular and profitable form of entertainment to a reviled one. But why? And how does this response reflect larger social changes in the United States at the time? Artists responded to this change by using the freakish body as a tool for exploring problematic social attitudes about race, disability, and sexual desire in American culture. The freak body in art not only reveals disturbing truths about early twentieth-century prejudices, but it also becomes a space for exploring the profound social impact of contemporary events such as the Great Migration, World War I, and the Great Depression.

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Freak Shows and the Modern American Imagination examines the artistic use of freak shows between 1900 and 1950. During this period, the freak show shifted from a highly popular and profitable form of entertainment to a reviled one. But why? And how does this response reflect larger social changes in the United States at the time? Artis...

Thomas Fahy is a Professor of English and Director of the American Studies Program at Long Island University, C.W. Post Campus.  He is the author of Staging Modern American Life, as well as three novels.  He is the editor of The Philosophy of Horror; Considering Aaron Sorkin; Considering David Chase; and Peering Behind the Curtain: Di...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:200 pages, 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.46 inPublished:September 15, 2011Publisher:Palgrave MacmillanLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0230120989

ISBN - 13:9780230120983

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Introduction * "Helpless Meanness": Constructing the Black Body as Freakish Spectacle * War-Injured Bodies: Fallen Soldiers in American Propaganda and the Works of John Dos Passos, Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner * Worn, Damaged Bodies in the Great Depression: FSA Photography and the Fiction of John Steinbeck, Tillie Olsen, and Nathanael West * "Some Unheard-of Thing": Freaks, Families, and Coming of Age in Carson McCullers and Truman Capote's Breakfast at Brian's * Epilogue

Editorial Reviews

“Fahy's accessible writing style, detailed explanations, and relevant quotations from the texts encourage those with interests in sociology of the body and literary criticism, as well as those with interests in cultural ethnography, to take up an interdisciplinary approach to the study and manifestations of freak discourse.”—Disability Studies Quarterly"This eloquent and accessible book enhances our understanding of how and why our cultural imagination has given us the figure of 'the freak.' Fahy mines culture and literature with skill, excavating the often unnoticed and frequently misunderstood freaks for us to ponder. With great insight, he reveals the cultural work we ask these fellow humans to do on behalf of those of us who can somehow escape such a category."--Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, Professor of Women's Studies, Emory University and author of Extraordinary Bodies and Staring: How We Look"This is a compelling and engaging book that . . . maps out a trajectory of troubling social attitudes during one of the most important periods in American literary history-modernism."--Kirstin Ringelberg, Elon University and author of Redefining Gender in American Impressionist Studio Paintings