Rudeness and Civility: Manners in 19th Century Urban America

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9780809034703: Rudeness and Civility: Manners in 19th Century Urban America
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Rudeness & Civility: Manners in Nineteenth Century America by Kasson, John F.

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From Publishers Weekly:

A social historian who has written previously about leisure and technology, Kasson ( Amusing the Millionssingular is correct? : Coney Island at the Turn of the Century ) here interprets the development of middle-class manners in an insightful essay on conduct, culture and consciousness. He examines the transformation of our notion of "gentility" from the period before the American Revolution, when it seemed a birthright to some, until the early 20th century, when the term, he argues, came to suggest habits of "excessive conventionality" and "false delicacy." In the intervening years, politeness epitomized an ideal of public and private control, which the author explores in the advice of etiquette manuals, illustrations from period advertisements and excerpts from diaries, novels, autobiographies and travel sketches detailing American daily life. Kasson's close readings are generally most illuminating when he sticks to standard texts such as Edgar Allen Poe's story "The Man of the Crowd" and Herman Melville's "Bartleby,comma is correct?/correct the Scrivener"; a few more inventive intellectual exertions, like his reconsideration of the Last Supper in the context of Victorian dining ideals, take him somewhat far afield.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal:

Kasson contends that the 19th century was an important era in the development of standards of public decorum as we know them in 20th-century America. In areas as diverse as artistic performances, gender relationships, and dining, he examines how earlier models for personal behavior became increasingly unworkable. Economic change in the 19th century led to a growing middle class capable of participating in social activities previously reserved for a small upper class, and to the growth of cities where many people were brought into close contact. Social commentators believed it essential to improve the manners of the 19th-century middle class. Kasson's book is heavy going initially, and one wishes his earlier chapters had the focus and wit of the later ones on emotional control, table manners, and public spectatorship. But for persevering readers this can be a rewarding book. For academic and larger public libraries.
- Charles K. Piehl, Mankato State Univ., Minn.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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