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The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America

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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The Culture of Spontaneity is the first comprehensive history of the postwar avant-garde, integrating such diverse moments in American culture as abstract expressionism, bebop jazz, gestalt therapy, Black Mountain College, Jungian psychology, beat poetry, experimental dance, Zen Buddhism, Alfred North Whitehead's cosmology, and the antinuclear movement. Daniel Belgrad shows how a startling variety of artistic movements actually had one unifying theme: spontaneous improvisation.

"A compelling narrative, putting living flesh on shorthand intuitions that connect North Beach to Black Mountain College, Fenollosa to Pollock, Jackson Lears's No Place of Grace to Todd Gitlin's The Sixties."—Joel Smith, Boston Review

"An invaluable introduction to postwar modernism across the arts."—Thomas Augst, Boston Book Review

"Belgrad's extensive probing of the artists and movements with their profound sociological roots is timely as well as comprehensive....A major contribution for serious scholars."—Choice

Synopsis:

The Culture of Spontaneity is the first comprehensive history of the postwar avant-garde. Daniel Belgrad shows how a startling variety of artistic movements actually had one unifying theme: spontaneous improvisation.

Synopsis:

In Physics Envy, Peter Middleton argues that science has had a strong influence on the course of American poetry since WWII. He focuses on poets as different as Charles Olsen, Robert Duncan, John Ashbery, and others, and how they responded to advances in science (especially physics) in the development of ambitious poetry programs and poetics. For Middleton, the major shift came in the 1970s, when the more traditional New American poetry gave way to the experiments of Language poetry, and he shows surprising correlations between how poetry was conceived and written, on the one hand, and the advances in physics, chemistry, and biology at the time, on the other. Though it was discoveries in physics (e.g., the atomic bomb) that started this and#147;science envyand#8221; after the war, Middleton finds poets borrowing and adapting language from the other sciences as well, for example, the way the language and concepts used by biologists were taken up by poets and poetry theorists to create their own recombinant poetics of language, often calling what they did, however abstract, inquiries and experiments in language. Even the ideas and language from the leading popular scientific journal, Scientific American, began appearing in poems in magazines and books. And a poet like Gary Snyder, whose work seems to be inspired by Buddhist and shamanistic sources, also draws, as Middleton shows, on ecological scienceand#151;sometimes directly from textbooks on the subject. Middleton writes a history of science and poetry that shows how they throw beneficial light on each otherand#8217;s dilemmas, and uncovers areas of unacknowledged exchanges of ideas between poets and scientists. As Middleton shows, poetry since WWII can often be read as a thoughtful, productive quarrel between the Oppenheimers and Watsons of science, and poets and poetic experimenters attempting an intellectual inquiry into the nature of things. Poets and poetry critics, literary historians, and those in history and philosophy of science will want to read this book.

Synopsis:

The Culture of Spontaneity is the first comprehensive history of the postwar avant-garde, integrating such diverse moments in American culture as abstract expressionism, bebop jazz, gestalt therapy, Black Mountain College, Jungian psychology, beat poetry, experimental dance, Zen Buddhism, Alfred North Whitehead's cosmology, and the antinuclear movement. Daniel Belgrad shows how a startling variety of artistic movements actually had one unifying theme: spontaneous improvisation.

A compelling narrative, putting living flesh on shorthand intuitions that connect North Beach to Black Mountain College, Fenollosa to Pollock, Jackson Lears's No Place of Grace to Todd Gitlin's The Sixties.--Joel Smith, Boston Review

An invaluable introduction to postwar modernism across the arts.--Thomas Augst, Boston Book Review

Belgrad's extensive probing of the artists and movements with their profound sociological roots is timely as well as comprehensive....A major contribution for serious scholars.--Choice

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Pt. 1: The Collective Unconscious

1: The Emergence of an Avant-Garde

2: The Avant-Garde and the American Indian

3: Ideogram

Pt. 2: The Energy Field

4: Subjectivity, Existentialism, and Plastic Dialogue

5: Subjectivity in the Energy Field: The Influence of Alfred North Whitehead

6: Gestalt

7: The Body in Plastic Dialogue: Dance and Ceramics

Pt. 3: Spontaneous Bop Prosody

8: Bebop

9: The Beats

10: Battling the Social Neurosis

Conclusion Into the Sixties

Notes

Selected Bibliography

Credits

Index

Product Details

ISBN:
9780226041902
Author:
Belgrad, Daniel
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Author:
Middleton, Peter
Subject:
Reference
Subject:
American - General
Subject:
Popular Culture
Subject:
Fine Arts
Subject:
Popular Culture - General
Subject:
DRAMA / General
Subject:
United States - 20th Century
Subject:
American
Edition Description:
1
Publication Date:
19991031
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
Professional and scholarly
Language:
English
Illustrations:
1 line drawing
Pages:
272
Dimensions:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » General
Arts and Entertainment » Art » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Drama » General
History and Social Science » Sociology » General

The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America New Trade Paper
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Product details 272 pages University of Chicago Press - English 9780226041902 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , The Culture of Spontaneity is the first comprehensive history of the postwar avant-garde. Daniel Belgrad shows how a startling variety of artistic movements actually had one unifying theme: spontaneous improvisation.
"Synopsis" by ,
In Physics Envy, Peter Middleton argues that science has had a strong influence on the course of American poetry since WWII. He focuses on poets as different as Charles Olsen, Robert Duncan, John Ashbery, and others, and how they responded to advances in science (especially physics) in the development of ambitious poetry programs and poetics. For Middleton, the major shift came in the 1970s, when the more traditional New American poetry gave way to the experiments of Language poetry, and he shows surprising correlations between how poetry was conceived and written, on the one hand, and the advances in physics, chemistry, and biology at the time, on the other. Though it was discoveries in physics (e.g., the atomic bomb) that started this and#147;science envyand#8221; after the war, Middleton finds poets borrowing and adapting language from the other sciences as well, for example, the way the language and concepts used by biologists were taken up by poets and poetry theorists to create their own recombinant poetics of language, often calling what they did, however abstract, inquiries and experiments in language. Even the ideas and language from the leading popular scientific journal, Scientific American, began appearing in poems in magazines and books. And a poet like Gary Snyder, whose work seems to be inspired by Buddhist and shamanistic sources, also draws, as Middleton shows, on ecological scienceand#151;sometimes directly from textbooks on the subject. Middleton writes a history of science and poetry that shows how they throw beneficial light on each otherand#8217;s dilemmas, and uncovers areas of unacknowledged exchanges of ideas between poets and scientists. As Middleton shows, poetry since WWII can often be read as a thoughtful, productive quarrel between the Oppenheimers and Watsons of science, and poets and poetic experimenters attempting an intellectual inquiry into the nature of things. Poets and poetry critics, literary historians, and those in history and philosophy of science will want to read this book.
"Synopsis" by , The Culture of Spontaneity is the first comprehensive history of the postwar avant-garde, integrating such diverse moments in American culture as abstract expressionism, bebop jazz, gestalt therapy, Black Mountain College, Jungian psychology, beat poetry, experimental dance, Zen Buddhism, Alfred North Whitehead's cosmology, and the antinuclear movement. Daniel Belgrad shows how a startling variety of artistic movements actually had one unifying theme: spontaneous improvisation.

A compelling narrative, putting living flesh on shorthand intuitions that connect North Beach to Black Mountain College, Fenollosa to Pollock, Jackson Lears's No Place of Grace to Todd Gitlin's The Sixties.--Joel Smith, Boston Review

An invaluable introduction to postwar modernism across the arts.--Thomas Augst, Boston Book Review

Belgrad's extensive probing of the artists and movements with their profound sociological roots is timely as well as comprehensive....A major contribution for serious scholars.--Choice

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