American Studies
American Studies

New Books By UT AMS Graduates Dr. Joel Dinerstein and Dr. Andrew J. Friedenthal

Fri, April 14, 2017
New Books By UT AMS Graduates Dr. Joel Dinerstein and Dr. Andrew J. Friedenthal

In this first week of April, the Department of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin is celebrating new books by graduates and Dr. Joel Dinerstein (PhD '00) and Dr. Andrew Friedenthal (PhD '14)

Dr. Dinerstein's book, called The Origins of Cool in Postwar America, was also released by The University of Chicago Press:

Cool. It was a new word and a new way to be, and in a single generation, it became the supreme compliment of American culture. The Origins of Cool in Postwar America uncovers the hidden history of this concept and its new set of codes that came to define a global attitude and style. As Joel Dinerstein reveals in this dynamic book, cool began as a stylish defiance of racism, a challenge to suppressed sexuality, a philosophy of individual rebellion, and a youthful search for social change.

Through eye-opening portraits of iconic figures, Dinerstein illuminates the cultural connections and artistic innovations among Lester Young, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Jack Kerouac, Albert Camus, Marlon Brando, and James Dean, among others. We eavesdrop on conversations among Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Miles Davis, and on a forgotten debate between Lorraine Hansberry and Norman Mailer over the "white Negro" and  black cool. We come to understand how the cool worlds of Beat writers and Method actors emerged from the intersections of film noir, jazz, and existentialism. Out of this mix, Dinerstein sketches nuanced definitions of cool that unite concepts from African-American and Euro-American culture: the stylish stoicism of the ethical rebel loner; the relaxed intensity of the improvising jazz musician; the effortless, physical grace of the Method actor. To be cool is not to be hip and to be hot is definitely not to be cool.

Dr. Friedenthal's book, called Retcon Game: Retroactive Continuity and the Hyperlinking of America was released by the University Press of Mississippi, which describes the book thus:

Andrew J. Friedenthal deems retroactive continuity, or "retconning," as a force with many implications for how Americans view history and culture.

Friedenthal examines this phenomenon in a range of media, from its beginnings in comic books and now its widespread shift into television, film, and digital media. Retconning has reached its present form as a result of the complicated workings of superhero comics. In comic books and other narratives, retconning often seems utilized to literally rewrite some aspect of a character's past, either to keep that character more contemporary, to erase stories from continuity that no longer fit, or to create future story potential...

In the first book to focus on this subject, Friedenthal regards the editable Internet hyperlink, rather than the stable printed footnote, as the de facto source of information in America today. To embrace retroactive continuity in fictional media means accepting that the past itself is not a stable element, but rather something constantly in contentious flux. Due to retconning's ubiquity within our media, we have grown familiar with narratives as inherently unstable, a realization that deeply affects how we understand the world.

 

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