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American Culture in the 1950s

Martin Halliwell

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This book provides a stimulating account of the dominant cultural forms of 1950s America: fiction and poetry; theatre and performance; film and television; music and radio; and the visual arts. Through detailed commentary and focused case studies of influential texts and events - from Invisible Man to West Side Story, from Disneyland to the Seattle World's Fair, from Rear Window to The Americans - the book examines the way in which modernism and the cold war offer two frames of reference for understanding the trajectory of postwar culture.

The two core aims of this volume are to chart the changing complexion of American culture in the years following World War II and to provide readers with a critical investigation of 'the 1950s'. The book provides an intellectual context for approaching 1950s American culture and considers the historical impact of the decade on recent social and cultural developments.

Key Features:

  • Focused case studies featuring key texts, genres, writers, artists and cultural trends
  • Chronology of 1950s American Culture
  • Bibliographies for each chapter
  • over twenty illustrations


American Culture in the 1950s
Martin Halliwell

Case Studies
Chronology of 1950s American Culture
Introduction: The Intellectual Context
1. Fiction and Poetry
2. Drama and Performance
3. Music and Radio
4. Film and Television
5. The Visual Arts beyond Modernism
Conclusion: Rethinking the 1950s

About the Author

Martin Halliwell is Professor of American Studies and Head of the School of Arts at the University of Leicester. His authored books include Voices of Mental Health: Medicine, Politics, and American Culture, 1970–2000 (Rutgers University Press, 2017), Therapeutic Revolutions: Medicine, Psychiatry, and American Culture, 1945–1970 (Rutgers University Press, 2013), American Culture in the 1950s (Edinburgh University Press, 2007) and Transatlantic Modernism (Edinburgh University Press, 2005).


The author has a good command of the variety of cultural forms in the period and has planned the shape and contents of the book thoughtfully.
- Professor Lucy Maddox, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.
The 1950s has been transformed in the scholarly literature from a "tranquillized" decade to an almost "tumultuous" one, and therefore is badly in need of a restorative balance. This is the achievement of Martin Halliwell's superb account of a postwar period that, for all of its familiarity, remains tantalizingly elusive. By showing the persistence of the varieties of cultural modernism, he advances the retrospective understanding of a decade that was not merely the lengthened shadow of the Cold War. His book is thoughtful, expansive and engaging.
- Stephen J. Whitfield, Professor of American Studies, Brandeis University, Massachusetts

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