America's Heroes

America's Heroes : The Changing Models of Success in American Magazines

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Product details

  • Hardback | 398 pages
  • 104.14 x 177.8 x 45.72mm | 158.76g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • 0195012364
  • 9780195012361

Review Text

The traditional model of American individualism (against which such sociologists as Riesman, Whyte, and Lowenthal measure contemporary conformity) did not dominate the nineteenth century as is commonly supposed. To assume that it did, in Greene's view, "is to demean the integrity of the past and to deprive ourselves of a liberating perspective," and thus he attempts to restore the upset historical balance. His study focuses on popular magazines as the medium most immediately responsive to changing attitudes, and particularly on their biographical articles, whose heroes and achievements reflected "real life" and reasonable goals. The periods under scrutiny are those before and after the heyday of the Horatio Alger success-type - 1787 to 1820, 1890 through the First World War - and the model has indeed seen striking modifications. Beginning with the neoclassical public-spirited gentleman of the early republic, then picking up the strong-willed Napoleon-styled tycoon of the nineties, the Progressive era's middle-class heroes of civic responsibility, and finally the managerial "regular guy" of the war years - the permutations of the model are inseparable from the development of the country (especially business) and the journalistic enterprise. Greene draws all this into account and demonstrates each period's effort to save - by revising - as much as possible of the individualist ideal. His work is admirably conceived and executed, but not likely to draw the popular audience of a Riesman or a Whyte. (Kirkus Reviews)show more