Cover image for Cultural excursions : marketing appetites and cultural tastes in modern America
Cultural excursions : marketing appetites and cultural tastes in modern America
Harris, Neil, 1938-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1990.
Physical Description:
viii, 453 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
General Note:
Selected essays written over a period of fifteen years.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NX180.S6 H325 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Neil Harris's scholarship of the past twenty-five years has helped to open up the study of American cultural history. This long-awaited collection gathers some of his rich and varied writings. Harris takes us from John Philip Sousa to Superman, with stops along the way to explore art museums and world fairs, shopping malls and hotel lobbies, urban design and utopian novels, among other artifacts of American cultures.

The essays fall into three general sections: the first treats the history of cultural institutions, highlighting the role of museums; the second section focuses on some literary, artistic, and entrepreneurial responses to the new mass culture; and the final group of essays explores the social history of art and architecture. Throughout Harris's diverse writings certain themes recur--the redefining of boundaries between high art and popular culture, the relationship between public taste and technological change, and the very notion of what constitutes a shared social experience. Harris's pioneering work has broadened the field of cultural history and encouraged whole new areas of inquiry. Cultural Excursions will be useful for those in American and culture studies, as well as for the general reader trying to make sense of the culture in which we live.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

These 17 works by a University of Chicago history professor and author of The Artist in American Society are ``essays'' in a splendid sense: the entertaining record of an astute observer venturing into American cultural history in search of meanings and patterns. The first section looks into the historical roles of cultural institutions as educators, conservators and avatars of progress p. 94 . Harris compares art museums, for instance, with world's fairs and department stores as ``merchandisers of taste.'' p. 52 The second group of essays touches on ``the boundaries and intersections of cultures and media'' with topics as varied as utopian fiction, the consumer as a social type in American novels, and John Philip Sousa's singular talent and stunning commercial success in combining popular and classical music. In the last pieces Harris considers ``the social history of art and architecture,'' through subjects ranging from the rise of shopping malls to the shift of art patronage from wealthy individuals to wealthy corporations. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

This is an important book. It gathers together articles that Neil Harris, a professor of history at the University of Chicago, has written over the last two decades and that have been printed in mostly obscure journals. Students of American culture will find every page full of ideas that have never been fully explored until Harris's work. Institutions such as museums, world's fairs, shopping malls, and Superman are examined for their negative and positive contributions to the culture as well as their relationships to each other. In fact, it is this " approach, informed by Harris's broad interests and knowledge, that marks the genius of this book. This reviewer has been reading and rereading it but still has not mastered its subtleties. A book for well-educated professors who will know how to interpret it for undergraduates. R. W. Winter Occidental College

Table of Contents

1 Four Stages of Cultural Growth: The American City
2 All the World a Melting Pot? Japan at American Fairs, 1876-1904
3 Museums, Mechandising, and Popular Taste: The Struggle for Influence
4 A Historical Perspective on Museum Advocacy
5 Cultural Institutions and American Modernization
6 Great American Fairs and American Cities: The Role of Chicago's Columbian Exposition
7 Museums: The Hidden Agenda
8 Utopian Fiction and Its Discontents
9 The Drama of Consumer Desire
10 John Philip Sousa and the Culture of Reassurance
11 Who Owns Our Myths? Heroism and Copyright in an Age of Mass Culture
12 Collective Possession: J. Pierpont Morgan and the American Imagination
13 The Changing Landscape Spaced Out at the Shopping Center Living with Lobbies Parking the Garage
14 Iconography and Intellectual History: The Halftone Effect
15 Color and Media: Some Comparisons and Speculations
16 Pictorial Perils: The Rise of American Illustration
17 Designs on Demand: Art and the Modern Corporation
Notes Illustration Credits