The Square Circuit

Academia, parenthood, living in a bankrupt city, and what I read in the process.

Sunday, July 08, 2007


We're off to Texas for a month, where apparently in addition to being (as ever) an oven it's also deluged with rain. I'm going to get some research done; the wife will be enjoying her new sewing machine and doing a little writing of her own, Boy #1 will be going to "Jump Camp" and "Drama Camp," and the baby (one year old on Friday!) will be doing a little day care, a little making friends, and a little time with Mommy.

The research I'm doing is on the use of modernism as a propaganda weapon in the Cold War, so I've been reading up both on modernism and on American culture during the Cold War. I just finished Russell Lynes 1954 book THE TASTEMAKERS, which was only partially on 1950s culture--most of the book looks at important "tastemaker" figures from the 1830s to the 1950s. It's a fascinating book, very popular in its day but forgotten today for the most part. It combines pretty serious research (into, for instance, the first art gallery in the U.S., the genesis of the craze for "antiques," the fierce combat between partisans of the Gothic and Queen Anne house styles, and the reason that Modernist houses never caught on in the U.S.) with funny, gossipy bits about wealthy peoples' taste. After about a dozen books of high theory and philosophy on modernism, Adorno, Habermas, etc., this was a nice change.

Now I'm going to read through Stephen Spender's papers.


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