Cover for FOREMAN: The Other Fifties: Interrogating Midcentury American Icons

The Other Fifties

Interrogating Midcentury American Icons

From the Edsel to Eisenhower, from Mau Mau to Doris Day, and from Ayn Rand to Elvis, contributors to The Other Fifties topple the decade's already weakened image as a time of unprecedented peace, prosperity, and conformity. Representing the fifties as a period of cultural transformation, contributors reveal the gradual "unmaking" of traditions and value systems that took place as American culture prepared itself for the more easily observed cultural turbulence of the 1960s. Well known contributors demonstrate how television, the novel, the Hollywood movie, the Broadway musical, and rock and roll assaulted midcentury American attitudes toward sexuality, race, gender, and class, so altering public sensibilities that what was novel or shocking in the fifties seems tame or even downright difficult to grasp today. They also rebut the widely held view that 1950s consumerism led to cultural homogeneity, replacing this view with a picture of robust popular markets that defied conservative controls and actively subverted conventional norms and values. Brushing away the haze of an era, The Other Fifties will help readers understand the decade not as placid or repressed, but as a time when emancipatory desires struggled to articulate themselves.


"These invigorating and original discussions make it clear: the 1950s are a decade that no one really knows."--George Lipsitz, author of Rainbow at Midnight


Joel Foreman is an associate professor of English and has a joint appointment in the Program on Social and Organizational Learning at George Mason University.

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