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With Amusement for All: A History of American Popular Culture since 1830

by LeRoy Ashby

Availablepaperback$45.00x 978-0-8131-4107-7
Availablecloth$100.00x 978-0-8131-2397-4
712 pages  Pubdate: 10/19/2012  6.129 x 9.25  36 b&w photos

With Amusement for All is a sweeping interpretative history of American popular culture. Providing deep insights into various individuals, events, and movements, LeRoy Ashby explores the development and influence of popular culture—from minstrel shows to hip-hop, from the penny press to pulp magazines, from the NBA to NASCAR, and much in between. By placing the evolution of popular amusement in historical context, Ashby illuminates the complex ways in which popular culture both reflects and transforms American society. He demonstrates a recurring pattern in democratic culture by showing how groups and individuals on the cultural and social periphery have profoundly altered the nature of mainstream entertainment. The mainstream has repeatedly co-opted and sanitized marginal trends in a process that continues to shift the limits of acceptability. Ashby describes how social control and notions of public morality often vie with the bold, erotic, and sensational as entrepreneurs finesse the vagaries of the market and shape public appetites. Ashby argues that popular culture is indeed a democratic art, as it entertains the masses, provides opportunities for powerless and disadvantaged individuals to succeed, and responds to changing public hopes, fears, and desires. However, it has also served to reinforce prejudices, leading to discrimination and violence. Accordingly, the study of popular culture reveals the often dubious contours of the American dream. With Amusement for All never loses sight of pop culture’s primary goal: the buying and selling of fun. Ironically, although popular culture has drawn an enormous variety of amusements from grassroots origins, the biggest winners are most often sprawling corporations with little connection to a movement’s original innovators.

LeRoy Ashby is Regents Professor and Claudius O. and Mary Johnson Distinguished Professor of History at Washington State University. He is the author of several books, including Fighting the Odds: The Life of Senator Frank Church and Endangered Children: Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse in American History.

"Combines being a remarkably quixotic endeavor with being something of a monumental achievement of scholarship and pure perseverance."--Belles Lettres -- Belles Lettres

"When regarding this book's comprehensiveness, the richness of its detail, and the strength of its interpretation of the specifics of popular culture, I stand in awe. What an achievement! Majestic!"--Benjamin G. Rader, author of Baseball: A History of America's Game

"This intelligent, energetic book has the ability to appeal to historians and scholars without distancing the general reader. The easy linear narrative is punctuated by songs, comic anecdotes, and rich descriptions that bring each era to life."--Charleston Post and Courier

"Ashby has given us a fine new book. They say in baseball, 'it's hard to tell the players without a scorecard.' With Amusement for All will be the new scorecard for anyone interested in the study of popular culture. The book is both comprehensive and smart, a fine combination of surveying the terrain then saying intelligent things about it. Ashby has rendered an invaluable service."--Elliott Gorn, co-author of A Brief History of American Sports

"American popular culture isn't a distraction from the serious issues of our time. It is inseparable from them. . . . Researches events ranging from Wild West shows to Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunctions during the 2004 Super Bowl."--Lewiston Tribune

"No single author has tackled popular culture with so much breadth and depth and managed to strike a balance between the popular and scholarly approaches. Ashby's absorbing and hugely informative study will appeal to a wide audience. Highly recommended."--Library Journal (starred review)

"I know of no other book that provides the same kind of documented, engaging, and lively narrative about American popular culture as With Amusement for All."--Michael Allen, author of Rodeo Cowboys in the North American Imagination

"It is not taken for granted that Super Bowls and reality talent shows are discussed around water coolers everywhere the morning after they occur. What should be more common is the use of such entertainment supernovas by historians interested in understanding what makes American culture tick. Thanks to Ashby's fascinating book, this task has become substantially easier."--Pacific Northwest Quarterly

"The author skilfully quotes appropriate anecdotes and gives us fine, brief descriptions of some of the personalities of the day. . . . Well and fluently written and pleasant to read, and offers a good summary of a whole lot of material about popular culture."--Early Popular Visual Culture

"Without question, the author...has researched and written a masterpiece. The book is a tour de force in its field and has made popular culture--once thought to be a frivolous area for academic study--a serious field of inquiry."--USA Today

"LeRoy Ashby draws on the substantial volume of historical scholarship on American popular culture produced since the 1970s to present a survey of impressive breadth on two centuries of American amusements."--Journal of American History

“You’ll enjoy this fascinating and massively researched volume on how Americans have amused themselves and how it changed the world.” –WTBF Radio

In With Amusement for All, one will find a wide variety of entertainment venues - radio, television, music, sports, movies and the internet; from P.T. Barnum's "bunkum" to Sheldon Cooper's "hokum", it is all here, presented in an informative, entertaining narrative. -- The Past in Review -- The Past in Review