The Death and Life of Main Street: Small Towns in American Memory, Space, and Community (Paperback)
  • The Death and Life of Main Street: Small Towns in American Memory, Space, and Community (Paperback)
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The Death and Life of Main Street: Small Towns in American Memory, Space, and Community (Paperback)

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£32.50
Paperback 316 Pages / Published: 01/08/2014
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For more than a century, the term "Main Street" has conjured up nostalgic images of American small-town life. Representations exist all around us, from fiction and film to the architecture of shopping malls and Disneyland. All the while, the nation has become increasingly diverse, exposing tensions within this ideal. In The Death and Life of Main Street, Miles Orvell wrestles with the mythic allure of the small town in all its forms, illustrating how Americans continue to reinscribe these images on real places in order to forge consensus about inclusion and civic identity, especially in times of crisis.

Orvell underscores the fact that Main Street was never what it seemed; it has always been much more complex than it appears, as he shows in his discussions of figures like Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, Frank Capra, Thornton Wilder, Margaret Bourke-White, and Walker Evans. He argues that translating the overly tidy cultural metaphor into real spaces--as has been done in recent decades, especially in the new urbanist planned communities of Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Andres Duany--actually diminishes the communitarian ideals at the center of this nostalgic construct. Orvell investigates the way these tensions play out in a variety of cultural realms and explores the rise of literary and artistic traditions that deliberately challenge the tropes and assumptions of small-town ideology and life.

Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
ISBN: 9781469617558
Number of pages: 316
Weight: 440 g
Dimensions: 235 x 156 x 19 mm
Edition: New edition


MEDIA REVIEWS
Leaves no doubt that the New Urbanism owes a debt to small-town America.--AAG Review of Books


Stimulating and productive. . . . A striking example of how to do cultural history.--H-Memory


An eye-opening exploration of the mythology and culturally laden concepts behind small towns and Main Street.--The Annals of Iowa


This book is rich with literary and visual examples.--Journal of American History


An admirable job of mapping the symbolic meanings of small-town America. . . . Lucid and engaging.--Journal of Historical Geography


Thought-provoking.--Publishers Weekly


Highly recommended. Upper-level undergraduates and above.--Choice


A creative, cohesive approach. . . . Orvell's analysis is astute and readable. . . . A compelling and useful text.--North Carolina Historical Review


An engaging study of the development of Americans' sense of community in the twentieth and early twenty-first century. . . . A worthwhile read for those interested in the intersection of American culture with urban and suburban history.--Australasian Journal of American Studies


An invigorating kaleidoscopic tour as different elements pop into prominence in different chapters. . . . A fascinating exploration of the transformation of the small town in the national imagination from slough of black-slapping mediocrity to embodiment of democratic virtue.--Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

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