Post­ed by Nao­mi Firestone-Teeter

Lau­ren Rabi­novitz’s Elec­tric Dream­land: Amuse­ment Parks, Movies, and Amer­i­can Moder­ni­ty, will pub from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty Press on July 24th:

Amuse­ment parks were the play­grounds of the work­ing class in the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, com­bin­ing numer­ous, mechan­i­cal­ly-based spec­ta­cles into one unique, mod­ern cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non. Lau­ren Rabi­novitz describes the urban moder­ni­ty engen­dered by these parks and their media, encour­ag­ing ordi­nary indi­vid­u­als to sense, inter­pret, and embody a bur­geon­ing nation­al iden­ti­ty. As indus­tri­al­iza­tion, urban­iza­tion, and immi­gra­tion upend­ed soci­ety, amuse­ment parks tem­pered the shocks of racial, eth­nic, and cul­tur­al con­flict while shrink­ing the dis­tinc­tions between gen­der and class. Fol­low­ing the rise of Amer­i­can parks from 1896 to 1918, Rabi­novitz seizes on a simul­ta­ne­ous increase in cin­e­ma and spec­ta­cle audi­ences and con­nects both to the suc­cess of leisure activ­i­ties in sta­bi­liz­ing soci­ety. Crit­ics of the time often con­demned parks and movies for incit­ing moral decline, yet in fact they fos­tered women’s inde­pen­dence, racial uplift, and assim­i­la­tion. The rhyth­mic, mechan­i­cal move­ments of spec­ta­cle also con­di­tioned audi­ences to process mul­ti­ple stim­uli. Fea­tur­ing illus­tra­tions from pri­vate col­lec­tions and accounts from unac­cessed archives, Elec­tric Dream­land joins film and his­tor­i­cal analy­ses in a rare por­trait of mass enter­tain­ment and the mod­ern eye.

Orig­i­nal­ly from Lan­cast­er, Penn­syl­va­nia, Nao­mi is the CEO of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil. She grad­u­at­ed from Emory Uni­ver­si­ty with degrees in Eng­lish and Art His­to­ry and, in addi­tion, stud­ied at Uni­ver­si­ty Col­lege Lon­don. Pri­or to her role as exec­u­tive direc­tor, Nao­mi served as the found­ing edi­tor of the JBC web­site and blog and man­ag­ing edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World. In addi­tion, she has over­seen JBC’s dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, and also devel­oped the JBC’s Vis­it­ing Scribe series and Unpack­ing the Book: Jew­ish Writ­ers in Conversation.