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The Culture of Spontaneity

Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America

The Culture of Spontaneity is the first comprehensive history of the postwar avant-garde, integrating such diverse moments in American culture as abstract expressionism, bebop jazz, gestalt therapy, Black Mountain College, Jungian psychology, beat poetry, experimental dance, Zen Buddhism, Alfred North Whitehead’s cosmology, and the antinuclear movement. Daniel Belgrad shows how a startling variety of artistic movements actually had one unifying theme: spontaneous improvisation.

"A compelling narrative, putting living flesh on shorthand intuitions that connect North Beach to Black Mountain College, Fenollosa to Pollock, Jackson Lears’s No Place of Grace to Todd Gitlin’s The Sixties."—Joel Smith, Boston Review

"An invaluable introduction to postwar modernism across the arts."—Thomas Augst, Boston Book Review

"Belgrad’s extensive probing of the artists and movements with their profound sociological roots is timely as well as comprehensive....A major contribution for serious scholars."—Choice

351 pages | 8 color plates, 30 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1998

Culture Studies

History: American History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Pt. 1: The Collective Unconscious
1: The Emergence of an Avant-Garde
2: The Avant-Garde and the American Indian
3: Ideogram
Pt. 2: The Energy Field
4: Subjectivity, Existentialism, and Plastic Dialogue
5: Subjectivity in the Energy Field: The Influence of Alfred North Whitehead
6: Gestalt
7: The Body in Plastic Dialogue: Dance and Ceramics
Pt. 3: Spontaneous Bop Prosody
8: Bebop
9: The Beats
10: Battling the Social Neurosis
Conclusion Into the Sixties
Selected Bibliography

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