Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression

Author(s): Morris Dickstein


From Astaire to Steinbeck, this timely and long-awaited history of the 1930s sets the creative energies of the Great Depression against a backdrop of poverty and economic disaster. Gathering a staggering range of materials-from images of rural poverty to zany screwball comedies, wildly popular swing band music and streamlined art deco designs-this eloquent work highlights the pivotal role of culture and government intervention in hard times. Exploding the myth that Depression culture was merely escapist, it concentrates on the dynamic energy and insight the arts could provide and the enormous lift they gave to the American nation's morale. Dancing in the Dark shows how America's worst economic crisis, as it eroded individualism and punctured the American dream, produced some of the country's greatest writing, photography and mass entertainment.

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"...monumental... He carries the reader onwards with fine writing and enthusiasm for his material... Even without its merits, this work would probably win prizes for its timeliness." Jonathan Birchall, Financial Times "His warm and informal survey clearly conveys a pleasure and enthusiasm for the culture that hard times produced, one that could be both starkly bleak as well as startlingly beautiful." Susan Currell, The Times Higher Education Supplement "...the central paradox [this book] explores-how economic bankruptcy produced such a wealth of creativity -might give us pause for thought..." Andrew Dickson, The Guardian "His [Morris Dickstein's] book is an epic effort to draw out the common themes of a prolific decade..." Financial Times "A seasoned critic, Dickstein has done a remarkable job in Dancing in the Dark...Few books of criticism read with the narrative compulsion of a good novel, but this one does." Jay Parini Literary Review "...a substantial and illuminating account of cultural pursuits during America's Great Depression." The Jewish Chronicle "Now, thanks to the highly erudite Morris Dickstein and his well-researched book, we can reassess the cultural life of that unique decade." Diplomat Magazine

Morris Dickstein is the Distinguished Professor of English and Theatre at the City University of New York Graduate Center and the author of Gates of Eden and Leopards in the Temple, among other works.

General Fields

  • : 9780393338768
  • : WW Norton & Co
  • : WW Norton & Co
  • : October 2010
  • : 210mm X 140mm X 28mm
  • : United States
  • : November 2010
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Morris Dickstein
  • : Paperback
  • : 973.916
  • : 624
  • : 24 illustrations