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Реферат: U.S. Culture

Because it is open to expressive forms and innovative speech, modern poetry is able to convey the deep personal anguish experienced by several of the most prominent poets of the postwar period, among them Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, Anne Sexton, and John Berryman. Sometimes called confessional poets, they used poetry to express nightmarish images of self-destruction. As in painting, removing limits and conventions on form permitted an almost infinite capacity for conveying mood, feeling, pain, and inspiration. This personal poetry also brought American poetry closer to the European modernist tradition of emotional anguish and madness. Robert Frost, probably the most famous and beloved of modern American poets, wrote evocative and deeply felt poetry that conveyed some of these same qualities within a conventional pattern of meter and rhyme.

Another tradition of modern poetry moved toward playful engagement with language and the creative process. This tradition was most completely embodied in the brilliant poetry of Wallace Stevens, whose work dealt with the role of creative imagination. This tradition was later developed in the seemingly simple and prosaic poetry of John Ashbery, who created unconventional works that were sometimes records of their own creation. Thus, poetry after World War II, like the visual arts, expanded the possibilities of emotional expression and reflected an emphasis on the creative process. The idea of exploration and pleasure through unexpected associations and new ways of viewing reality connected poetry to the modernism of the visual arts.


Modernist sensibilities were also evident in the emergence of a new form of journalism. Journalism traditionally tried to be factual and objective in presentation. By the mid-1970s, however, some of America's most creative writers were using contemporary events to create a new form of personal reporting. This new approach stretched the boundaries of journalism and brought it closer to fiction because the writers were deeply engaged and sometimes personally involved in events. Writers such as Norman Mailer, Truman Capote, and Joan Didion created a literary journalism that infused real events with their own passion. In Armies of the Night (1968), the record of his involvement in the peace movement, Mailer helped to define this new kind of writing. Capote's In Cold Blood (1966), the retelling of the senseless killing of a Kansas family, and Mailer’s story of a murderer's fate in The Executioner's Song (1979) brought this hyperrealism to chilling consummation. No less vivid were Didion's series of essays on California culture in the late 1960s and her reporting of the sensational trial of football star O. J. Simpson in 1995.

Performing Arts

As in other cultural spheres, the performing arts in the United States in the 20th century increasingly blended traditional and popular art forms. The classical performing arts—music, opera, dance, and theater—were not a widespread feature of American culture in the first half of the 20th century. These arts were generally imported from or strongly influenced by Europe and were mainly appreciated by the wealthy and well educated. Traditional art usually referred to classical forms in ballet and opera, orchestral or chamber music, and serious drama. The distinctions between traditional music and popular music were firmly drawn in most areas.

During the 20th century, the American performing arts began to incorporate wider groups of people. The African American community produced great musicians who became widely known around the country. Jazz and blues singers such as Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday spread their sounds to black and white audiences. In the 1930s and 1940s, the swing music of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and Glenn Miller adapted jazz to make a unique American music that was popular around the country. The American performing arts also blended Latin American influences beginning in the 20th century. Between 1900 and 1940, Latin American dances, such as the tango from Argentina and the rumba from Cuba, were introduced into the United States. In the 1940s a fusion of Latin and jazz elements was stimulated first by the Afro-Cuban mambo and later on by the Brazilian bossa nova. 

Throughout the 20th century, dynamic classical institutions in the United States attracted international talent. Noted Russian-born choreographer George Balanchine established the short-lived American Ballet Company in the 1930s; later he founded the company that in the 1940s would become the New York City Ballet. The American Ballet Theatre, also established during the 1940s, brought in non-American dancers as well. By the 1970s this company had attracted Soviet defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, an internationally acclaimed dancer who served as the company’s artistic director during the 1980s.

In classical music, influential Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, who composed symphonies using innovative musical styles, moved to the United States in 1939. German-born pianist, composer, and conductor Andrй Previn, who started out as a jazz pianist in the 1940s, went on to conduct a number of distinguished American symphony orchestras. Another Soviet, cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, became conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., in 1977.

Some of the most innovative artists in the first half of the 20th century successfully incorporated new forms into classical traditions. Composers George Gershwin and Aaron Copland, and dancer Isadora Duncan were notable examples. Gershwin combined jazz and spiritual music with classical in popular works such as Rhapsody in Blue (1924) and the opera Porgy and Bess (1935). Copland developed a unique style that was influenced by jazz and American folk music. Early in the century, Duncan redefined dance along more expressive and free-form lines.

Some artists in music and dance, such as composer John Cage and dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, were even more experimental. During the 1930s Cage worked with electronically produced sounds and sounds made with everyday objects such as pots and pans. He even invented a new kind of piano. During the late 1930s, avant-garde choreographer Cunningham began to collaborate with Cage on a number of projects.

Perhaps the greatest, and certainly the most popular, American innovation was the Broadway musical, which also became a movie staple. Beginning in the 1920s, the Broadway musical combined music, dance, and dramatic performance in ways that surpassed the older vaudeville shows and musical revues but without being as complex as European grand opera. By the 1960s, this American musical tradition was well established and had produced extraordinary works by important musicians and lyricists such as George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart, Jerome Kern, and Oscar Hammerstein II. These productions required an immense effort to coordinate music, drama, and dance. Because of this, the musical became the incubator of an American modern dance tradition that produced some of America's greatest choreographers, among them Jerome Robbins, Gene Kelly, and Bob Fosse.

In the 1940s and 1950s the American musical tradition was so dynamic that it attracted outstanding classically trained musicians such as Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein composed the music for West Side Story, an updated version of Romeo and Juliet set in New York that became an instant classic in 1957. The following year, Bernstein became the first American-born conductor to lead a major American orchestra, the New York Philharmonic. He was an international sensation who traveled the world as an ambassador of the American style of conducting. He brought the art of classical music to the public, especially through his "Young People's Concerts," television shows that were seen around the world. Bernstein used the many facets of the musical tradition as a force for change in the music world and as a way of bringing attention to American innovation.

In many ways, Bernstein embodied a transformation of American music that began in the 1960s. The changes that took place during the 1960s and 1970s resulted from a significant increase in funding for the arts and their increased availability to larger audiences. New York City, the American center for art performances, experienced an artistic explosion in the 1960s and 1970s. Experimental off-Broadway theaters opened, new ballet companies were established that often emphasized modern forms or blended modern with classical (Martha Graham was an especially important influence), and an experimental music scene developed that included composers such as Philip Glass and performance groups such as the Guarneri String Quartet. Dramatic innovation also continued to expand with the works of playwrights such as Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, and David Mamet.

As the variety of performances expanded, so did the serious crossover between traditional and popular music forms. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, an expanded repertoire of traditional arts was being conveyed to new audiences. Popular music and jazz could be heard in formal settings such as Carnegie Hall, which had once been restricted to classical music, while the Brooklyn Academy of Music became a venue for experimental music, exotic and ethnic dance presentations, and traditional productions of grand opera. Innovative producer Joseph Papp had been staging Shakespeare in Central Park since the 1950s. Boston conductor Arthur Fiedler was playing a mixed repertoire of classical and popular favorites to large audiences, often outdoors, with the Boston Pops Orchestra. By the mid-1970s the United States had several world-class symphony orchestras, including those in Chicago; New York; Cleveland, Ohio; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Even grand opera was affected. Once a specialized taste that often required extensive knowledge, opera in the United States increased in popularity as the roster of respected institutions grew to include companies in Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas; and Santa Fe, New Mexico. American composers such as John Adams and Philip Glass began composing modern operas in a new minimalist style during the 1970s and 1980s.

The crossover in tastes also influenced the Broadway musical, probably America's most durable music form. Starting in the 1960s, rock music became an ingredient in musical productions such as Hair (1967). By the 1990s, it had become an even stronger presence in musicals such as Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk (1996), which used African American music and dance traditions, and Rent (1996) a modern, rock version of the classic opera La Bohиme. This updating of the musical opened the theater to new ethnic audiences who had not previously attended Broadway shows, as well as to young audiences who had been raised on rock music.

Performances of all kinds have become more available across the country. This is due to both the sheer increase in the number of performance groups as well as to advances in transportation. In the last quarter of the 20th century, the number of major American symphonies doubled, the number of resident theaters increased fourfold, and the number of dance companies increased tenfold. At the same time, planes made it easier for artists to travel. Artists and companies regularly tour, and they expand the audiences for individual artists such as performance artist Laurie Anderson and opera singer Jessye Norman, for musical groups such as the Juilliard Quartet, and for dance troupes such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Full-scale theater productions and musicals first presented on Broadway now reach cities across the country. The United States, once a provincial outpost with a limited European tradition in performance, has become a flourishing center for the performing arts.

Libraries and Museums

Libraries, museums, and other collections of historical artifacts have been a primary means of organizing and preserving America’s legacy. In the 20th century, these institutions became an important vehicle for educating the public about the past and for providing knowledge about the society of which all Americans are a part.


Private book collections go back to the early European settlement of the New World, beginning with the founding of the Harvard University library in 1638. Colleges and universities acquire books because they are a necessary component of higher education. University libraries have many of the most significant and extensive book collections. In addition to Harvard’s library, the libraries at Yale University, Columbia University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, and the University of California in Berkeley and Los Angeles are among the most prominent, both in scope and in number of holdings. Many of these libraries also contain important collections of journals, newspapers, pamphlets, and government documents, as well as private papers, letters, pictures, and photographs. These libraries are essential for preserving America’s history and for maintaining the records of individuals, families, institutions, and other groups.

Books in early America were scarce and expensive. Although some Americans owned books, Benjamin Franklin made a much wider range of books and other printed materials available to many more people when he created the first generally recognized public library in 1731. Although Franklin’s Library Company of Philadelphia loaned books only to paying subscribers, the library became the first one in the nation to make books available to people who did not own them. During the colonial period Franklin’s idea was adopted by cities such as Boston, Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island; and Charleston, South Carolina.

These libraries set the precedent for the free public libraries that began to spread through the United States in the 1830s. Public libraries were seen as a way to encourage literacy among the citizens of the young republic as well as a means to provide education in conjunction with the public schools that were being set up at the same time. In 1848 Boston founded the first major public library in the nation. By the late 19th century, libraries were considered so essential to the nation's well-being that industrialist Andrew Carnegie donated part of his enormous fortune to the construction of library buildings. Because Carnegie believed that libraries were a public obligation, he expected the books to be contributed through public expenditure. Since the 19th century, locally funded public libraries have become part of the American landscape, often occupying some of the most imposing public buildings in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Philadelphia. The belief that the knowledge and enjoyment that books provide should be accessible to all Americans also resulted in bookmobiles that serve in inner cities and in rural counties.

In addition to the numerous public libraries and university collections, the United States boasts two major libraries with worldwide stature: the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and the New York Public Library. In 1800 Congress passed legislation founding the Library of Congress, which was initially established to serve the needs of the members of Congress. Since then, this extraordinary collection has become one of the world's great libraries and a depository for every work copyrighted in the United States. Housed in three monumental buildings named after Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, the library is open to the public and maintains major collections of papers, photographs, films, maps, and music in addition to more than 17 million books.

The New York Public Library was founded in 1895. The spectacular and enormous building that today houses the library in the heart of the city opened in 1911 with more than a million volumes. The library is guarded by a famous set of lion statues, features a world-famous reading room, and contains more than 40 million catalogued items. Although partly funded through public dollars, the library also actively seeks funds from private sources for its operations.

Institutions such as these libraries are fundamental to the work of scholars, who rely on the great breadth of library collections. Scholars also rely on many specialized library collections throughout the country. These collections vary greatly in the nature of their holdings and their affiliations. The Schmulowitz Collection of Wit and Humor at the San Francisco Public Library contains more than 20,000 volumes in 35 languages. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, part of the New York Public Library, specializes in the history of Africans around the world. The Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, located at Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Massachusetts, houses the papers of prominent American women such as Susan B. Anthony and Amelia Earhart. The Bancroft Collection of Western Americana and Latin Americana is connected with the University of California at Berkeley. The Huntington Library in San Marino, California, was established by American railroad executive Henry Huntington and contains a collection of rare and ancient books and manuscripts. The Newberry Library in Chicago, one of the most prestigious research libraries in the nation, contains numerous collections of rare books, maps, and manuscripts.

Scholars of American history and culture also use the vast repository of the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D.C., and its local branches. As the repository and publisher of federal documents, the National Archives contain an extraordinary array of printed material, ranging from presidential papers and historical maps to original government documents such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. It houses hundreds of millions of books, journals, photos, and other government papers that document the life of the American people and its government. The library system is deeply entrenched in the cultural life of the American people, who have from their earliest days insisted on the importance of literacy and education, not just for the elite but for all Americans.


The variety of print resources available in libraries is enormously augmented by the collections housed in museums. Although people often think of museums as places to view art, in fact museums house a great variety of collections, from rocks to baseball memorabilia. In the 20th century, the number of museums exploded. And by the late 20th century, as institutions became increasingly aware of their important role as interpreters of culture, they attempted to bring their collections to the general public. Major universities have historically also gathered various kinds of collections in museums, sometimes as a result of gifts. The Yale University Art Gallery, for example, contains an important collection of American arts, including paintings, silver, and furniture, while the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley specializes in archaeological objects and Native American artifacts.

The earliest museums in the United States grew out of private collections, and throughout the 19th century they reflected the tastes and interests of a small group. Often these groups included individuals who cultivated a taste for the arts and for natural history, so that art museums and natural history museums often grew up side by side. American artist Charles Willson Peale established the first museum of this kind in Philadelphia in the late 18th century.

The largest and most varied collection in the United States is contained in the separate branches of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian, founded in 1846 as a research institution, developed its first museums in the 1880s. It now encompasses 16 museums devoted to various aspects of American history, as well as to artifacts of everyday life and technology, aeronautics and space, gems and geology, and natural history.

The serious public display of art began when the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, founded in 1870, moved to its present location in Central Park in 1880. At its installation, the keynote speaker announced that the museum’s goal was education, connecting the museum to other institutions with a public mission. The civic leaders, industrialists, and artists who supported the Metropolitan Museum, and their counterparts who established the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, were also collectors of fine art. Their collections featured mainly works by European masters, but also Asian and American art. They often bequeathed their collections to these museums, thus shaping the museum’s policies and holdings. Their taste in art helped define and develop the great collections of art in major metropolitan centers such as New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston. In several museums, such as the Metropolitan and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., collectors created institutions whose holdings challenged the cultural treasures of the great museums of Europe.


Museums continued to be largely elite institutions through the first half of the 20th century, supported by wealthy patrons eager to preserve collections and to assert their own definitions of culture and taste. Audiences for most art museums remained an educated minority of the population through the end of the 19th century and into the 20th century. By the second decade of the 20th century, the tastes of this elite became more varied. In many cases, women within the families of the original art patrons (such as Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, and Peggy Guggenheim) encouraged the more avant-garde artists of the modern period. Women founded new institutions to showcase modern art, such as the Museum of Modern Art (established by three women in 1929) and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Although these museums still catered to small, educated, cosmopolitan groups, they expanded the definition of refined taste to include more nontraditional art. They also encouraged others to become patrons for new artists, such as the abstract expressionists in the mid-20th century, and helped establish the United States as a significant place for art and innovation after World War II.

Although individual patronage remained the most significant source of funding for the arts throughout the 20th century, private foundations began to support various arts institutions by the middle of the century. Among these, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Rockefeller Foundation were especially important in the 1920s and 1930s, and the Ford Foundation in the 1960s. The federal government also became an active sponsor of the arts during the 20th century. Its involvement had important consequences for expanding museums and for creating a larger audience.

The federal government first began supporting the arts during the Great Depression of the 1930s through New Deal agencies, which provided monetary assistance to artists, musicians, photographers, actors, and directors. The Work Projects Administration also helped museums to survive the depression by providing jobs to restorers, cataloguers, clerical workers, carpenters, and guards. At the same time, innovative arrangements between wealthy individuals and the government created a new kind of joint patronage for museums. In the most notable of these, American financier, industrialist, and statesman Andrew W. Mellon donated his extensive art collection and a gallery to the federal government in 1937 to serve as the nucleus for the National Gallery of Art. The federal government provides funds for the maintenance and operation of the National Gallery, while private donations from foundations and corporations pay for additions to the collection as well as for educational and research programs.

Government assistance during the Great Depression set a precedent for the federal government to start funding the arts during the 1960s, when Congress appropriated money for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as part of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities. The NEA provides grants to individuals and nonprofit organizations for the cultivation of the arts, although grants to institutions require private matching funds. The need for matching funds increased private and state support of all kinds, including large donations from newer arts patrons such as the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund and the Pew Charitable Trusts. Large corporations such as the DuPont Company, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), and the Exxon Corporation also donated to the arts.


The increased importance placed on art throughout the 20th century helped fuel a major expansion in museums. By the late 1960s and 1970s, art museums were becoming aware of their potential for popular education and pleasure. Audiences for museums increased as museums received more funding and became more willing to appeal to the public with blockbuster shows that traveled across the country. One such show, The Treasures of Tutankhamun, which featured ancient Egyptian artifacts, toured the country from 1976 to 1979. Art museums increasingly sought attractions that would appeal to a wider audience, while at the same time expanding the definition of art. This effort resulted in museums exhibiting even motorcycles as art, as did the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1998.

Museums also began to expand the kinds of art and cultural traditions they exhibited. By the 1990s, more and more museums displayed natural and cultural artifacts and historical objects from non-European societies. These included objects ranging from jade carvings, baskets, and ceramics to calligraphy, masks, and furniture. Egyptian artifacts had been conspicuous in the holdings of New York's Metropolitan Museum and the Brooklyn Museum since the early 20th century. The opening in 1989 of two Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., the National Museum of African Art and the National Museum of the American Indian, indicated an awareness of a much broader definition of the American cultural heritage. The Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the Freer Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., maintain collections of Asian art and cultural objects. The 1987 opening of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, a new Smithsonian museum dedicated to Asian and Near Eastern arts, confirmed the importance of this tradition.

Collectors and museums did not neglect the long-venerated Western tradition, as was clear from the personal collection of ancient Roman and Greek art owned by American oil executive and financier J. Paul Getty. Opened to the public in 1953, the museum named after him was located in Malibu, California, but grew so large that in 1997 the J. Paul Getty Museum expanded into a new Getty Center, a complex of six buildings in Los Angeles. By the end of the 20th century, Western art was but one among an array of brilliant cultural legacies that together celebrate the human experience and the creativity of the American past.

Memorials and Monuments

The need to memorialize the past has a long tradition and is often associated with wars, heroes, and battles. In the United States, monuments exist throughout the country, from the Revolutionary site of Bunker Hill to the many Civil War battlefields. The nation’s capital features a large number of monuments to generals, war heroes, and leaders. Probably the greatest of all these is Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where there are thousands of graves of veterans of American wars, including the Tomb of the Unknowns and the gravesite of President John F. Kennedy. In addition to these traditional monuments to history, millions of people are drawn to the polished black wall that is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The memorial is a stark reminder of the losses suffered in a war in which more than 58,000 Americans died and of a time of turmoil in the nation.

No less important than monuments to war heroes are memorials to other victims of war. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which opened in 1993 in Washington, D.C., is dedicated to documenting the extermination of millions of Jews and others by the Nazis during World War II. It contains photographs, films, oral histories, and artifacts as well as a research institute, and has become an enormous tourist attraction. It is one example of a new public consciousness about museums as important sources of information and places in which to come to terms with important and painful historical events. Less elaborate Holocaust memorials have been established in cities across the country, including New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Monuments to national heroes are an important part of American culture. These range from the memorials to Presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to the larger-than-life faces of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt carved into Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. Some national memorials also include monuments to ordinary citizens, such as the laborers, farmers, women, and African Americans who are part of the new Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Americans also commemorate popular culture with museums and monuments such as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. These collections of popular culture are as much a part of American heritage as are fine arts museums and statues of national heroes. As a result of this wide variety of institutions and monuments, more people know about the breadth of America’s past and its many cultural influences. This new awareness has even influenced the presentation of artifacts in natural history museums. Where these once emphasized the differences among human beings and their customs by presenting them as discrete and unrelated cultures, today’s museums and monuments emphasize the flow of culture among people.

The expansion in types of museums and the increased attention to audience is due in part to new groups participating in the arts and in discussions about culture. In the early 20th century, many museums were supported by wealthy elites. Today’s museums seek to attract a wider range of people including students from inner cities, families from the suburbs, and Americans of all backgrounds. The diverse American population is eager to have its many pasts and talents enshrined. The funding now available through foundations and federal and state governments provides assistance. This development has not been without resistance. In the 1980s and 1990s people challenged the role of the federal government in sponsoring certain controversial art and culture forms, posing threats to the existence of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Nevertheless, even these controversies have made clearer how much art and cultural institutions express who we are as a people. Americans possess many different views and pasts, and they constantly change what they create, how they communicate, and what they appreciate about their past.

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