Cover: The Uses of Variety: Modern Americanism and the Quest for National Distinctiveness, from Harvard University PressCover: The Uses of Variety in HARDCOVER

The Uses of Variety

Modern Americanism and the Quest for National Distinctiveness

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Product Details


$75.00 • £60.95 • €67.50

ISBN 9780674003088

Publication Date: 02/15/2001


400 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

6 halftones


[Bramen] brings dogged research and steady focus to [a] central ambiguity in the American ethos… Her study delivers several powerful messages even plain-talking people can understand. For one, Bramen shows that issues of ethnic diversity and variety, far from being epiphenomena of the last few decades, course through our history and spotlight the ambiguities in what it means to be an American… The Uses of Variety boasts gems…of past cultural history that remind us these are perennial issues… [Bramen’s] penetrating expedition through the nuances of America’s breast-beating about ‘diversity within unity’ concentrates the mind. Out of many examples comes an important book: a flinty challenge to intellectual complacency about ourselves.—Carlin Romano, The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Uses of Variety is a significant addition to and revision of a century of American pragmatist thinking about difference. Bramen brings new conceptual tools to bear on the history of multicultural thought and literature and thereby avoids the common pitfalls to produce an important survey and synthesis.—Tom Lutz, author of American Nervousness, 1903: An Anecdotal History and editor of These ‘Colored’ United States: African American Essays from the 1920s

Carrie Bramen offers a compelling, intellectually rigorous history of the protean idea of pluralism, a concept that has been embraced heartily by both liberals and conservatives as essential in defining American identity. Situating pluralism in philosophical, psychological, aesthetic, and political contexts, Bramen brings a fresh perspective to illuminating the meaning of the term for late Victorian America and, significantly, its legacy for us today.—Linda Simon, author of Genuine Reality: A Life of William James

Taking William James’s ‘pluralistic universe’ as a starting point, The Uses of Variety takes us through regions, ghettos, religious congresses, and a range of theoretical, philosophical, and literary works to explore the multiple and often conflicting constructions of ‘variety’ in the context of turn-of-the-century U.S. nationalism and cosmopolitanism. Carrie Tirado Bramen brings together a broad spectrum of historical events and cultural theories in which variety variously expressed, contained, and shaped an increasing diversity that was perceived as threatening national coherence. This insightful, thoroughly researched, and timely work will be indispensable for scholars interested in U.S. nationalism, modernism, cosmopolitanism, and multiculturalism.—Priscilla Wald, author of Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form

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