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Lauren Rabinovitz - Electric Dreamland. Amusement Parks, Movies, and American Modernity

Amusement parks were the playgrounds of the working class in the early
twentieth century, combining numerous, mechanically-based spectacles
into one unique, modern cultural phenomenon. Lauren Rabinovitz describes
the urban modernity engendered by these parks and their media,
encouraging ordinary individuals to sense, interpret, and embody a
burgeoning national identity. As industrialization, urbanization, and
immigration upended society, amusement parks tempered the shocks of
racial, ethnic, and cultural conflict while shrinking the distinctions
between gender and class. Following the rise of American parks from 1896
to 1918, Rabinovitz seizes on a simultaneous increase in cinema and
spectacle audiences and connects both to the success of leisure
activities in stabilizing society. Critics of the time often condemned
parks and movies for inciting moral decline, yet in fact they fostered
women’s independence, racial uplift, and assimilation. The rhythmic,
mechanical movements of spectacle also conditioned audiences to process
multiple stimuli. Featuring illustrations from private collections and
accounts from unaccessed archives, Electric Dreamland joins film and historical analyses in a rare portrait of mass entertainment and the modern eye.

Publisher: Columbia University Press / ISBN 978-0231156615
Medium: Book


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