Introduction Utopia, Dystopia, Heterotopia

The Suburban Landscape in Twentieth-Century American Culture and Thought
  • Robert Beuka

Abstract

Poised at the beginning of a new century, American cultural critics will doubtless soon find occasion to look back on significant developments in U.S. society over the course of the past hundred years. Among the myriad changes that have fostered America’s evolution from a largely unsettled and expanding country to the tightly interconnected, late-capitalist nation of today, certainly one profound development can be seen on the face of the American landscape itself. While the beginning of the twentieth century saw increasing urbanization across the land, the second half of the century witnessed the massive development of the suburban landscape, a new type of terrain that dissolved the urban/rural place distinctions that had, until that point, largely characterized American topography.1 That the expansion of the suburban environment—particularly in the post-World War II era—stands as a significant cultural development is evidenced by the fact that, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, the United States is primarily a suburban nation, with far more Americans living in the suburbs than in either urban or rural areas.2

Keywords

Burning Manifold Posit Bors Defend 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    As historian of the suburbs Kenneth Jackson notes in Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    According to analyses of U.S. census data, the suburbs, which as of the 1950 census were nearing parity with urban and nonmetropolitan areas in terms of population, by 1960 were clearly the most populous type of landscape in America, claiming over 33 percent of the total population. This percentage has steadily risen in subsequent decades. Analyses of recent census figures indicate that the trend toward suburbanization continues: G. Scott Thomas, in The United States of Suburbia: How the Suburbs Took Control of America and What They Plan to Do With It (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 1998)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Roger Silverstone, ed., Visions of Suburbia (New York: Roudedge, 1997), ix.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    J. Nicholas Entrikin, The Betweenness of Place: Towards Geography of Modernity (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), 7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Geographer E.V. Walter, in Placeways: A Theory of the Human Environment (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988)Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    D. W. Meinig, ed., The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1979), 6.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Clifford Clark, “Ranch-House Suburbia: Ideals and Realities,” in Recasting America: Culture and Politics in the Age of the Cold War, ed. Lary May, 171–191 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), 171.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Kim Ian Michasiw, “Some Stations of the Suburban Gothic,” in American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative, ed. Robert K. Martin and Eric Savoy, 237–257 (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1998), 253.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    Ada Louise Huxtable, “An Alternative to’ slurbs,” in Suburbia in Transition, ed. Louis H. Masottie and Jeffrey K. Hadden, 185–191 (New York: New Viewpoints, 1974), 186Google Scholar
  10. 12.
    Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces,” trans. Jay Miskowiec, Diacritics 16 (Spring 1986): 24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 14.
    In many ways, Levittown, New York, and the subsequent Levittowns built in Pennsylvania and New Jersey provide a fascinating case study of the dynamics of the postwar suburban experience. For an excellent extended discussion of the Levittown experience, see William Gans, The Levittowners (New York: Pantheon, 1967).Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Quoted in David Halberstam, The Fifties (New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1993), 141.Google Scholar
  13. 17.
    Max Lerner, in America As a Civilization (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1987)Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    See chapter 11 of David Harvey, Justice, Nature, & the Geography of Difference (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996)Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    For studies that trace the profound social impact suburban situation comedies of the 1950s and 1960s had on culture in their day and beyond, see Nina Leibman, Living Room Lectures: The Fifties Family in Film and Television (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1995)Google Scholar
  16. Dana Heller, Family Plots: The De-Oedipalization of Popular Culture (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995)Google Scholar
  17. Lynn Spigel, Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 23.
    Albert Hunter, “The Symbolic Ecology of Suburbia,” in Neighborhood and Community Environments, ed. Irwin Altman and Abraham Wandersman, 191–221 (New York: Plenium Press, 1987), 199.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    Catherine Jurca, White Diaspora: The Suburb and the Twentieth-Century American Novel (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001), 4.Google Scholar
  20. 29.
    Barbara Ching and Gerald W Creed, eds. Knowing Your Place: Rural Identity and Cultural Hierarchy (New York: Routledge, 1997), 3.Google Scholar
  21. 30.
    Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 170.Google Scholar
  22. 31.
    Martyn Lee, “Relocating Location: Cultural Geography, the Specificity of Place and the City Habitus,” in Cultural Methodologies, ed. Jim McGuigan, 126–141 (London: Sage, 1997), 132.Google Scholar
  23. 32.
    Frederic Jameson, The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981), 82.Google Scholar
  24. 34.
    Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism: or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1991), 44.Google Scholar
  25. 35.
    D. J. Waldie, Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir (New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1996), 118.Google Scholar
  26. 36.
    Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, trans. Maria Jolas (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994), 4.Google Scholar
  27. 37.
    Philip Y. Nicholson, “The Elusive Soul of the Suburbs: An Inquiry into Contemporary Political Culture,” in Suburbia Re-examined, ed. Barbara M. Kelly, 207–213 (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989), 207.Google Scholar
  28. 38.
    Yi-Fu Tuan, Landscapes of Fear (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1979).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Robert Beuka 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert Beuka

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations