From Television to the Internet: Postmodern Visions of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century
Wiley Lee Umphlett

About the Author :
A native Virginian, the late Dr. Wiley Lee Umphlett resided in Florida from 1964 to his death in 2005. Holder of degrees from Rhodes College, Columbia University, and Florida State University, he taught on the public school, college, and university levels in Virginia and Florida. Until his retirement, he served as an administrator/professor at the University of West Florida in Pensacola for over twenty-five years.

The subject matter of his previous books and numerous journal articles ranged from literary criticism to popular culture and media-related topics as a reflector of American social behavior. As a pioneer in the filed of sport culture, he showed how sport as a sociocultural force in American society has been a barometer of both its positive and negative sides.

In covering the years from the late 1940s through 2000, this book’s sociocultural focus is on the visual impact of momentous developments in postmodern media culture in America, particularly as they have reflected a narrowing of the divide between the elite and mass culture, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality, and the social fragmentation of American life. As such, this book complements and expands on the commentary and conclusions of the author’s initial inquiry into the modern era of media-made culture in The Visual Focus of American Media Culture in the Twentieth Century(FDUP, 2004).

From the 1890s to the 1920s and the Depression and World War II years, society’s pervasively communal focus demanded idealized images and romanticized interpretations of life. But the communal imperative, as evolving social change impacted it, harbored the seeds of its own disintegration. The sociocultural uprooting of another World War, the anxieties attendant to the Atomic Age, and two later sociopolitically divisive military conflicts culminated in the societal upheavals of the 1960s and an increasingly problematic and socially fragmented nation.

Like the first book, the second also relies on the collective metaphor of the mediated vision to show how the visually oriented communication forms the media culture have influenced and contributed to the origin of varied subcultural sectors in the postmodern era, extending from the appearance of television in the late 1940s to the advent of the Internet near the end of the century.

As early as the prosperous postwar years, where this narrative begins, the mass media forms of the culture began to display the characteristics of postmodernism in the undermining of traditional values and the breakdown of the hierarchical division between the elite and mass culture – a major theme of this book. Thus, its attention to the media-made forms of the twentieth century’s second half reveals how the postmodernist affinity fro fantasizing reality transformed the escapist dreams of the mediated vision into transient subcultures of special interests that sought to make the present more tolerable by intensifying experience. By century’s end, the American media culture, in fantasizing reality itself, would become a pervasive sociocultural force whose main intent was to offer escapist solace from the anxieties of postmodern life.

ISBN 0-8386-4080-X

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