Our Town, the MacDowell Colony, and the Art of Civic Mediation

Kathryn S. Roberts*

*Bijbehorende auteur voor dit werk

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    Thornton Wilder’s Our Town (1938) has found unusual currency of late. In 2011, the play lent its name to a major funding program launched by the National Endowment for the Arts; in 2017, it appeared in the center of a popular podcast and was revived by a British theater company in the wake of a terrorist attack. These productions recognize what terms like “middlebrow” obscure: Our Town is a civic mediator, a performance that installs art at the center of community life and community at the center of art. Taking inspiration from Antoine Hennion’s sociology of music, this essay ventures into the archive to trace an unfamiliar origin story for Our Town, involving a turn-of-the-century writers’ colony, a Progressive-Era historical pageant, and Wilder’s self-understanding as both confirmed bachelor and “community man.” Through the trajectory of a single play, civic mediation emerges as a pervasive strategy and ethos of American cultural practice, connecting diverse media through time and space.
    Originele taal-2English
    Pagina's (van-tot)395–418
    Aantal pagina's24
    TijdschriftAmerican Literary History
    Volume31
    Nummer van het tijdschrift3
    DOI's
    StatusPublished - 23-aug-2019

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