© 2012

The Multi-Talented Mr. Erskine

Shaping Mass Culture through Great Books and Fine Music

  • Authors

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 1-13
  3. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 15-22
  4. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 23-36
  5. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 37-50
  6. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 51-67
  7. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 69-79
  8. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 81-100
  9. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 101-117
  10. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 119-136
  11. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 137-161
  12. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 163-180
  13. Katherine Elise Chaddock
    Pages 181-188
  14. Back Matter
    Pages 189-255

About this book


This first biography of John Erskine views him in the larger contexts of the mass culture and expanded commercialism that helped propel his fame. It also relates a life narrative that demonstrates perils of academic celebrity along a conceptual path from public intellectual to pop icon.


biography concept culture French icon mass music

About the authors

Katherine Elise Chaddock is a professor in the College of Education, University of South Carolina, and the author of numerous published works on the history of American higher education. Among her previous books include: Visions and Vanities: John Andrew Rice of Black Mountain College; (with Susan Schramm) A Separate Sisterhood: Women Who Shaped Education in the Progressive Era; and (with Carolyn Matalene) Vital Signs in Charleston, Carolina Voices, and College of Charleston Voices.

Bibliographic information


'John Erskine lived one of the great untold lives of the twentieth century - until now. Educator, best-selling author, boulevardier, concert pianist, and first president of The Juilliard School of Music, Erskine was a driving force in highbrow, lowbrow, and middlebrow culture in an era that reveled in all three. The multi-talented Chaddock has done a superb job weaving together the many threads of Erskine's diverse life into a fascinating biographical tapestry. I'm glad this book got written, and got written so well.' - Alex Beam, author of A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books

'This lively and absorbing biography succeeds in uncovering the energetic and controversial man beneath the movement, while reminding us of this country's continuing need for well-read and broadly educated citizens, able to search for and recover their roots in these masterpieces of learning.' - Christopher B. Nelson, president, St. John's College, Annapolis, MD

'Chaddock's book is an elegant and cogent volume on the life of John Erskine, one of the most important American cultural leaders of the first half of the twentieth century, whose legacy is now sadly neglected. Happily, the author brings to life Erskine's many accomplishments as a teacher, poet, essayist, educational visionary, and concert pianist. Erskine's focused vision regarding the important role that the art of music plays within the fabric of American society strongly resonates for twenty-first-century readers. This book is a must read for those interested in America's cultural history from World War I to the end of World War II.' - Joseph W. Polisi, president, The Juilliard School

'Never losing sight of the man at the center of her story, Chaddock has at the same time skillfully placed her subject firmly in his own unique time and place in the history of American educational, musical, and literary culture. Among its many useful services, this book should once and for all dispel the misconception that Great Books programs, which Erskine originated, are fundamentally elitist and exclusionary rather what they are in fact: an expression of the democratization of learning for all citizens.' - Donald H. Whitfield, director, Great Books Discussions, The Great Books Foundation