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Immigrant Scene (08 Edition)by Sabine Haenni
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Book News Annotation:
The early Twentieth Century saw the city of New York inundated by immigrants, particularly from Eastern and Southern Europe. Haenni (film and American studies, Cornell University) looks at the German, Italian and Yiddish theaters in New York as expressions of collective identity and imagined mobility within the city and society. She demonstrates the manner in which English-language theater and films presented these European immigrants in a manner that made their difference seem less alien and prepared for acceptance in American society. By contrast, representations of Oriental and African-American society were seen consciously through the eyes of Caucasians, emphasizing differences and separating non-white groups from the rest of America. While concentrating on New York, Haenni notes that these attitudes moved with the film industry to Hollywood. Annotation ©2009 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Yiddish melodramas about the tribulations of immigration. German plays about alpine tourism. Italian vaudeville performances. Rubbernecking tours of Chinatown. In the New York City of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, these seemingly disparate leisure activities played similar roles: mediating the vast cultural, demographic, and social changes that were sweeping the nation’s largest city.
In The Immigrant Scene, Sabine Haenni reveals how theaters in New York created ethnic entertainment that shaped the culture of the United States in the early twentieth century. Considering the relationship between leisure and mass culture, The Immigrant Scene develops a new picture of the metropolis in which the movement of people, objects, and images on-screen and in the street helped residents negotiate the complexities of modern times.
In analyzing how communities engaged with immigrant theaters and the nascent film culture in New York City, Haenni traces the ways in which performance and cinema provided virtual mobility—ways of navigating the socially complex metropolis—and influenced national ideas of immigration, culture, and diversity in surprising and lasting ways.
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