The Visual Focus of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century: The Modern Era 1893-1945
Wiley Lee Umphlett

About the Author:
Wiley Lee Umphlett is a native Virginian who has resided in Florida since 1964. Holder of degrees from Rhodes College, Columbia University, and Florida State University, he has taught on the public school, college, and university levels in Virginia and Florida. Until his recent retirement, he served as an administrator/professor at the University of West Florida in Pensacola for over twenty-five years.

The Visual Focus of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century: The Modern Era, 1893-1945 is a sociocultural history of the visually oriented developments in the mass media and related forms that have beguiled American society from the 1890s to the end of World War II. A relevent purpose of this work, then, is to show how revolutionary technological advances during these years were instrumental in helping create a unique culture of media-made origins. By focusing on the communal appeal of both traditional and new modes of visual expression as welcome diversions from the harsh realities of life, this book also attends to the American people's affinity for those special individuals whose talent, vision, and lifestyle introduced daring new ways to avoid the ordinariness of life by fantasizing it.

In tracing the modern character of the twentieth century's first half, then, this book reveals how a media-made culture has evolved in response to a common need to transcend the realities of an increasingly challenging, complex world. As the desires of a burgeoning consumer society were being tempered by rapidly developing technologies, new media-made pastimes and amusements appeared that would subtly democratize the social tastes and behavior since of both the masses and those of higher estate. The changes in social behavior since the 1890s were also mirrored in the mediated messages of consumer advertising and fashion styles that sought to acclimate their targeted audiences to the escapist dimensions of the good life, a related theme that this chronicle dwells on. How the arts and literature reacted to democratization is accorded a relevant place, too. Moreover, this narrative discusses the effects that a media-made culture, as both a force and a mirror of social change, has had on traditional American values. The upshot of this ongoing democratization process, in its nurturing of a responsive media culture, was a gradual erosion of the polar postures of the elite and mass cultures so that by the mid-1940s the ironic signs of a coming postmodern alliance were in the air.

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ISBN 0-8386-4001-X, Price $49.50

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