Modernist America
Literary Studies
Performing Arts

Modernist America

Art, Music, Movies, and the Globalization of American Culture

  • Richard Pells


“[T]here is much to enjoy here . . . a rousing jaunt through a period of remarkable upheavals in entertainment and the arts.”—The Wall Street Journal

“Debates over high and low art, and the avant-garde vs. popular culture, rage throughout this absorbing volume.”—Publishers Weekly

"Richard Pells's book leaps, lunges, gallops, and, once in a while, pirouettes its way toward something very close toa unified field theory of twentieth-century American culture."—Gene Seymour, Bookforum

"Pells has written a capacious, original, even compelling book...there is nothing like this in print."—Daniel Horowitz, Smith College

"Richard Pells was one of the first scholars to teach us the importance of looking beyond national boundaries in writing the history of American culture.  Now he has valuably extended that lesson in this rich, accessible study of modernism’s transatlantic reach."—Joan Shelley Rubin, University of Rochester

"In his cosmopolitan study of American modernism, Richard Pells reveals the open borders for artistic work. With his impressive command of several art forms, high and popular, he illuminates the transnational circuitry of artistic borrowing and innovation."—Thomas Bender, author of New York Intellect

“By showing that American modernism emerged as part of an international artistic movement, Richard Pells provides an important contribution to the growing scholarly literature on the globalization of American culture.”—Elaine Tyler May, author of  America and the Pill: A History of Promise, Peril and Liberation

“An education in American modernism, this is also well-researched, thought-provoking, and uplifting analytical commentary on its cultural sources and universal influence.”—Carol J. Binkowski, Library Journal, starred review

"Pells's account succeeds. . . in evoking the ongoing exchange between those in Europe who were boldly reinventing classical traditions in art, architecture, and music and those in America who were using the black canvas of the twentieth century to either seek homegrown variations on European genres or invent their own traditions."—Gene Seymour, Bookforum

"Richard Pells's book leaps, lunges, gallops, and, once in a while, pirouettes its way towards something very close to a unified field theory of twentieth-century American culture by charting its intersections, polarities, eccentricities, and, most conspicuously, impact on the world at large."—Gene Seymour, Bookforum

“Pells makes for a fine guide to the 20th century. His book is worth reading for the section on Hemingway alone – and for the blinding insight that the tics and twitches of Travis Bickle and Clyde Barrow and the other crazies of the American new wave owe a lot to Vivien Leigh’s Blanche DuBois.”—Christopher Bray, The Observer

“At times the account is revelatory, as it is poignant: the legions of fans who greeted the dazed band leader Benny Goodman on his arrival in Los Angeles in 1935, where, unbeknown to Goodman, due to the three hour time difference, his moderately successful late night radio slot in New York had become a weekly prime-time smash. The book is full of such gems.”—Nick Liptrot, History Today