The Written Suburb
An American Site, An Ethnographic Dilemma
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
232 pages, 152.00 x 229.00 x 0.00 mm, 50 illus.
- ISBN: 9780812212822
- Published: May 1989
Chadds Ford, an upscale suburb in southeastern Pennsylvania, devotes a lot of energy to creating a historical identity. Numerous institutions participate in this task, including museums, a land conservancy dedicated to the preservation of its historical landscape, and the Historical Society, which is responsible for an annual community celebration. Larger institutions related to regional tourism and suburban development generate a steady flow of texts about Chadds Ford in the form of glossy travel magazines, pamphlets, brochures, and gallery displays.
Introduction: Postmodernity as an Ethnographic Dilemma . . . Chadds Ford Souvenirs . . . Some History . . . Chadds Ford as a Site of Postmodernity: Veneers, Vignettes, & the Myth of Tradition . . . Chadds Ford Days: Living History & the Closed Space of Postmodern Consumption . . . An Allegory of Museums: A Comparative Reading of Two Gallery Displays . . . Conclusion: Self-estrangements
"The Written Suburb presents a provocative and important methodological paradox for those communications scholars who practice or are interested in ethnography. . . . As a self-conscious post-ethnography, this work is powerful—and often humorous—both in describing the 'very weirdness' of suburban America in general and in demonstrating the problems in producing such a description."—Journal of Communication
"A wonderful book that . . . is shrewd and often quite funny . . . [and] employs the tools of an anthropologist to explain the strange folkways of late 20th-century Pennsylvania suburbanites."—Philadelphia Inquirer
"The strength of The Written Suburb lies in Dorst's clear and lucid exposition of the cultural logic of postmodernity and in his application of the postmodern research agenda."—American Journal of Sociology
"A subversive and postmodern work about the town of Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. The book considers Wyeth country—what kind of place it is and how it is constituted. . . . Dorst asks questions about how the place represents itself to itself and to tourists."—Lingua Franca
"The Written Suburb contains brilliant analysis of the myth of tradition and the workings of museums and historical societies. . . . Dorst's elegant, ironic prose makes his assault on the toxic combination of commerce and nostalgia sharp and satisfying. Folklorists should read, argue with, teach, and visit The Written Suburb again and again."—Journal of American Folklore