The Arts of Deception
Playing with Fraud in the Age of Barnum
By (author) James W. Cook
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Arts of Deception by James W. Cook
Book DescriptionIngenious automatons which appeared to think on their own. Dubious mermaids and wild men who resisted classification. Elegant sleight-of-hand artists who routinely exposed the secrets of their trade. These were some of the playful forms of fraud which astonished, titillated, and even outraged 19th-century America's new middle class, producing some of the most remarkable urban spectacles of the century. In this text, James W. Cook explores this distinctly modern mode of trickery designed to puzzle the eye and challenge the brain. Championed by the "Prince of Humbug," P.T. Barnum, these cultural puzzles confused the line between reality and illusion. Upsetting the normally strict boundaries of value, race, class, and truth, the spectacles offer a revealing look at the tastes, concerns, and prejudices of America's very first mass audiences. Cook creates an original portrait of a culture in which ambiguous objects, images, and acts on display helped define a new value system for the expanding middle class, as it confronted a complex and confusing world.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780674005914
(235mm x 155mm x 23mm)
Imprint: Harvard University Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Publish Date: 25-Jun-2001
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author James W. Cook
Cultural Turn in U.S. History, Paperback (January 2009)
Offers a genealogy of American cultural history, tracing its multifaceted origins, defining debates, and intersections with adjacent fields. This title explores such subjects as the different strains of cultural history, its relationships with arenas from mass entertainment to public policy, and the ways it has been shaped by catastrophe.
Colossal P. T. Barnum Reader, Paperback (December 2005)» View all books by James W. Cook
Reveals the American showman P T Barnum as, by turns, a moral reformer, a habitual hoaxer, an insightful critic, a savvy puffer, a master of images, a sparkling writer, a relentless provocateur, and an early advocate of family entertainments. This title tracks the shifting personas of the great showman and his representational choices.
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Author Biography - James W. Cook
James W. Cook is Assistant Professor of History and American Culture at the University of Michigan.
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