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American Culture • The development of the culture of the United States of America — music, cinema, dance, architecture, literature, poetry, cuisine and the visual arts — has been marked by a tension between two strong sources of inspiration: European sophistication and domestic originality. • At the beginning of her third century, nearly every major American city offers classical and popular music; historical, scientific and art research centers and museums; dance performances, musicals and plays; outdoor art projects and internationally significant architecture. • This development is a result of both contributions by private philanthropists and government funding. 1. Literature • In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, American art and literature took most of its cues from Europe with writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe. • By the middle of the nineteenth century, Henry David Thoreau established a distinctive American literary voice. • In the century's second half Mark Twain and poet Walt Whitman were major figures; Emily Dickinson, virtually unknown during her lifetime, would be recognized as America's other essential poet. • Eleven U.S. citizens have won the Nobel Prize in Literature, most recently Toni Morrison in 1993. Ernest Hemingway is the 1954 Nobel laureate. • Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby—may be dubbed the "Great American Novel.” 1.1 Poetry • Arose first during its beginnings as the Constitutionally-unified thirteen colonies • Most relied on contemporary British models of poetic form, diction, and theme. • However, in the 19th century, a distinctive American idiom began to emerge. • By the later part of that century, when Walt Whitman was winning an enthusiastic audience abroad, poets from the United States had begun to take their place at the forefront of the English-language avant-garde. • This position was sustained into the 20th century to the extent that Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot were perhaps the most influential English-language poets in the period during World War I. • By the 1960s, the young poets of the British Poetry Revival looked to their American contemporaries and predecessors as models for the kind of poetry they wanted to write. • Toward the end of the millennium, consideration of American poetry had diversified. • Poetry, and creative writing in general, also tended to become more professionalized with the growth of creative writing programs in the English studies departments of campuses across the country. 1.2 Comic Books • Since the invention of the comic book format in the 1930s, the United States has been the leading producer with only the British comic books (during the inter-war period and up until the 1970s) and the Japanese manga as close competitors in terms of quantity. • Comic book sales began to decline after World War II. • In the 1960s, comic books' audience expanded to include college students. The 1960s also saw the advent of the underground comics. • Later, the recognition of the comic medium among academics, literary critics and art museums helped solidify comics as a serious artform with established traditions, stylistic conventions, and artistic evolution. 2. Television • There are three basic types of television in the United States: broadcast, or "over-the-air" television, which is freely available to anyone with a TV in the broadcast area, cable television, and satellite television, both of which require a subscription to receive. 2.1 Broadcast Television • A decentralized, market-oriented television system. • No national broadcast programming services. • Local media markets with their own television stations. • Stations may sign affiliation agreements with one of the national networks. • The three major commercial television networks in the U.S. are NBC and CBS and ABC. • In big cities, affiliates of these networks almost always broadcast in the VHF band, which, in the days before cable became widespread, was premium real estate. • Major-network affiliates run very similar schedules. • Saturday mornings usually feature network programming aimed at children (including animated cartoons), while Sunday mornings include public-affairs programs that help fulfill stations' legal obligations to provide public- service programming. • Sports and infomercials can be found on weekend afternoons, followed again by the same type of prime-time shows aired during the week. 2.2 Other Over-the-Air Commercial Television • From 1955 until 1986, all English-language stations not affiliated with the big three networks were independent. Many independent stations still exist in the U.S.. • In 1986, however, the Fox Broadcasting Company launched a challenge to the big three networks and has established itself as a major player in broadcast television. 2.3 Cable and Satellite Television • Unlike broadcast networks, most cable networks air the same programming nationwide. • Top cable networks include USA Network, ESPN and Versus (sports), MTV (music), Fox News (news), Sci Fi (science fiction), Disney Channel (family), Nick and Cartoon Network (Children's), Discovery Channel and Animal Planet (documentaries), TBS (comedy), TNT (drama) and Lifetime (women's). • Cable-TV subscribers receive these channels through local cable system operators. By law, cable systems must include local over-the-air stations in their offerings to customers. • Today Direct broadcast satellite television services offers programming similar to cable TV. • Dish Network and News Corporation's DirecTV are the major DBS providers in the country. • In 2008, Sky Angel became the first in the U.S. to launch a nationwide multi-channel platform of television programming. • Currently, more than 70 channels of Christ- centered and family-friendly television and radio programming are currently available across the contiguous U.S.. • Subscribers do not need an outside dish or antenna to receive Sky Angel programming. 3. Dance • Great variety in dance in the United States. • Home of the Lindy Hop, Rock and Roll, and modern square dance. • A variety of social dance and concert or performance dance forms with a range of traditions of Native American dances. 3.1 African American Dance • Vernacular dances which have developed within African American communities in everyday spaces. • Usually centered on social dance practice. • characterized by ongoing change and development and their 'stealing' or 'borrowing' from other dance traditions. • An important example: Alvin Ailey and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 3.2 Swing Dance • A group of dances that developed concurrently with the style of jazz music in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. • The most well known is lindy hop. • Now found globally 3.3 Modern Dance • Developed in the early 20th century. • The early innovators: Isadora Duncan, the dance company of Ruth St. Denis and her husband-partner, Ted Shawn, her pupils Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham. • More of a way to express your feelings and emotions in a deep dance. • Later choreographers: Merce Cunningham, Alvin Ailey. • Recently, Mark Morris and Liz Lerman have shown that graceful, exciting movement is not restricted by age or body type. 4. Visual Arts • Visual arts of the United States refers to the history of painting and visual art in the United States. 4.1 Eighteenth Century • Most of early American consists of history painting and portraits. • Painters such as Gilbert Stuart made portraits of the newly elected government officials, while John Singleton Copley was painting emblematic portraits for the increasingly prosperous merchant class, and painters such as John Trumbull were making large battle scenes of the Revolutionary War. 4.2 Nineteenth Century • America's first well-known school of painting—the Hudson River School— appeared in 1820. • The Hudson River painters' directness and simplicity of vision influenced such later artists as Winslow Homer (1836-1910), who depicted rural America—the sea, the mountains, and the people who lived near them. • Paintings of the Great West, particularly the act of conveying the sheer size of the land and the cultures of the native people living on it, were starting to emerge as well. • Many painters who are considered American spent some time in Europe and met other European artists in Paris and London, such as Mary Cassatt and Whistler. 4.3 Twentieth Century • Controversy soon became a way of life for American artists. • After World War I many American artists also rejected the modern trends. 4.4.1 The American Southwest • New artists’ colonies started growing up around Santa Fe and Taos, the artists primary subject matter being the native people and landscapes of the Southwest. • Walter Ufer, Bert Greer Phillips, E. Irving Couse, William Henry Jackson, and Georgia O'Keeffe are some of the more prolific artists of the southwest. 4.4.2 Harlem Renaissance • In the 1920s and 30s a new generation of educated and politically astute African-American men and women emerged who sponsored literary societies and art and industrial exhibitions to combat racist stereotypes. • Though the movement included artists from across America, it was centered in Harlem, and work from Harlem graphic artist Aaron Douglas and photographer James VanDerZee became emblematic of the movement. 4.4.3 New Deal Art • The first of these projects, the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP), was created after successful lobbying by the unemployed artists of the Artists' Union. • The PWAP was followed by the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (FAP/WPA) in 1935. • Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Grant Wood, Ben Shahn, Joseph Stella, Reginald Marsh, Isaac Soyer, Raphael Soyer, and Jack Levine were some of the best known artists. 4.4.4 Abstract Expressionism • In the years after World War II, a group of New York artists formed the first American movement to exert major influence internationally: abstract expressionism. • It has always been criticized as too large and paradoxical, yet the common definition implies the use of abstract art to express feelings, emotions, what is within the artist, and not what stands without. 4.4.5 After Abstract Expressionism • During the 1950s abstract painting in America evolved into movements such as Neo-Dada, Post painterly abstraction, Op Art, hard-edge painting, Minimal art, Shaped canvas painting, Lyrical Abstraction, and the continuation of Abstract expressionism. • As a response to the tendency toward abstraction imagery emerged through various new movements like Pop Art, the Bay Area Figurative Movement and later in the 1970s Neo- expressionism. 4.4.6 Other Modern American Movements • Members of the next artistic generation favored a different form of abstraction: works of mixed media. • Realism has also been popular in the United States, despite modernist tendencies, such as the city scenes by Edward Hopper and the illustrations of Norman Rockwell. 5. Theater • Theater of the United States is based in the Western tradition, mostly borrowed from the performance styles prevalent in Europe. • Regional or resident theatres in the United States are professional theatre companies outside of New York City that produce their own seasons. 5.1 Early History • The birth of professional theater in America may have begun with the Lewis Hallam troupe that arrived in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1752. The Hallams were the first to organize a complete company of actors in Europe and bring them to the colonies. • In the 18th century, laws forbidding the performance of plays were passed • In 1794, president of Yale College, Timothy Dwight IV, in his “Essay on the Stage”, declared that “to indulge a taste for playgoing means nothing more or less than the loss of that most valuable treasure: the immortal soul.” 5.2 The 19th Century • “The Walnut” is the oldest theater in America. The Walnut's first theatrical production, The Rivals, was staged in 1812. • William Shakespeare's works were commonly performed. • American plays of the period were mostly melodramas. • A popular form of theater during this time was the minstrel show, which featured white actors dressed in “blackface . • Throughout the 19th century, theater culture was associated with hedonism and even violence, and actors (especially women), were looked upon as little better than prostitutes. • Burlesque—a form of farce in which females in male roles mocked the politics and culture of the day— became a popular form of entertainment by the middle of the 19th century. • Criticized for its sexuality and outspokenness, this form of entertainment was hounded off the “legitimate stage” and found itself relegated to saloons and barrooms. 5.3 The 20th Century • Vaudeville was common in the late 19th and early 20th century, and is notable for heavily influencing early film, radio, and television productions in the country. • By the beginning of the 20th century, legitimate (non-vaudville) theater had become decidedly more sophisticated in the United States. • More complex and sophisticated dramas bloomed in this time period, and acting styles became more subdued. • While revues consisting of mostly unconnected songs, sketches, comedy routines, and scantily-clad dancing girls dominated for the first 20 years of the 20th century, musical theater would eventually develop beyond this. • The massive social change that went on during the Great Depression also had an effect on theater in the United States. • The years between the World Wars were years of extremes. Eugene O'Neill's plays were the high point for serious dramatic plays leading up to the outbreak of war in Europe. • After World War II, American theater came into its own. Several American playwrights, such as Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, became world-renowned. • In the Sixties, experimentation in the Arts spread into theater as well, with plays such as Hair including nudity and drug culture references. • In the late 1990s and 2000s, American theatre began to borrow from cinematic and operatic roots. 5.4 American Theater Today • Broadway productions still entertain millions of theatergoers as productions have become more elaborate and expensive. • Notable contemporary American playwrights include Edward Albee, August Wilson, Tony Kushner, David Henry Hwang, John Guare, and Wendy Wasserstein. 6. Cuisine • The cuisine of the United States is a style of food preparation derived from the United States. • The cuisine has a history dating back before the colonial period. • With European colonization, the style of cookery changed vastly. • The style of cookery continued to expand into the 19th and 20th centuries 6.1 Pre-1492 • Cookery style varied greatly from group to group. • Nutrition was an issue for most hunting and gathering societies. 6.1.1 Plant Foods • The Native Americans had at least 2,000 separate plant foods which contributed to their cooking. • Indigenous root vegetables included camas bulb, arrowhead, blue lapine, bitterroot, biscuit root, breadroot, prairie turnip, sedge tubers, and whitestar potatoes (Ipomoea lacunosa) along with the sweet potato and white potato. • Greens included salmonberry shoots and stalks, coltsfoot, fiddlehead fern, milkweed, wild celery, wood sorrel, purslane, and wild nasturtium. • Other vegetables included century plant crowns and flower shoots, yucca blossoms, tule rootstocks, amole stalks, bear grass stalks, cattail rootstocks, narrowleaf yucca stalks, and sotol crowns. • Fruits included strawberries , huckleberries, blueberries, cherries, currants, gooseberries, plums, crab apples, raspberries, sumac berries, juniper berries, hackberries, elderberries, hawthorne fruit, pitaya, white evening primrose fruit, and yucca fruit. • Nuts proliferated in the diet as well • Legumes included peanuts, screwbeans, honey locust beans, and mesquite beans 6.1.2 Land Animal Foods • The largest amount of animal protein came from game meats. • Large game included bison, deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and bear, mountain lion, along with goat and pronghorn being found in the Rocky Mountains. • The small game cooked included rabbit, raccoon, opossum, squirrel, wood rat, chipmunk, ground hog, peccary, prairie dog, skunk, badger, beaver, and porcupine. • Game birds included turkey, partridge, quail, pigeon, plover, lark and osprey. Water fowl was quite abundant and varied, particularly on the coasts such as ducks, geese, swan, crane and sea crane. • Other amphibious proteins included alligators and frogs, which the legs were enjoyed from, especially bullfrogs. Snail meat was also enjoyed, along with various turtles such as the painted turtle, wood turtle, and snapping turtle along with their eggs. 6.1.3 Seafood • Saltwater fish eaten by the Native Americans were cod, lemon sole, flounder, herring, halibut, sturgeon, smelt, drum on the East Coast, and olachen on the West Coast. • Crustacean included shrimp, lobster, crayfish, and giant crabs in the Northwest and blue crabs in the East. Other shellfish include abalone and geoduck on the California coast, while on the East Coast the surf clam, quahog, and the soft-shell clam. Oysters were eaten on both shores, as were mussels and periwinkles. 6.2.3 Vegetables • A number of vegetables grew in the northern colonies, which included turnips, onions, cabbage, carrots, and parsnips, along with a number of beans, pulses and legumes. Pumpkins and gourds were other vegetables that grew well in the northern colonies; often used for fodder for animals in addition to human consumption. 6.2.4 Alcoholic Drinks • Rum was the distilled spirit of choice as the main ingredient, molasses, was readily available from trade with the West Indies. • Further into the interior, one would often find colonists consuming whiskey, as they did not have similar access to the sugar cane. They did have ready access to corn and rye, which they used to produce their whiskey. • Hops only grew wild in the New World, and as such, importation from England and elsewhere became essential to beer production.
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