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About the Book

Beyond the Book

368 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 21 illus., notes, index

ISBN  978-0-8078-5912-4
Published: January 2009

The Rise of Multicultural America

Economy and Print Culture, 1865-1915

By Susan L. Mizruchi

Between the Civil War and World War I the United States underwent the most rapid economic expansion in history. At the same time, the country experienced unparalleled rates of immigration. In The Rise of Multicultural America, Susan Mizruchi examines the convergence of these two extraordinary developments. No issue was more salient in postbellum American capitalist society, she argues, than the country's bewilderingly diverse population. This era marked the emergence of Americans' self-consciousness about what we today call multiculturalism.

Mizruchi approaches this complex development from the perspective of print culture, demonstrating how both popular and elite writers played pivotal roles in articulating the stakes of this national metamorphosis. In a period of widespread literacy, writers assumed a remarkable cultural authority as best-selling works of literature and periodicals reached vast readerships and immigrants could find newspapers and magazines in their native languages. Mizruchi also looks at the work of journalists, photographers, social reformers, intellectuals, and advertisers. Identifying the years between 1865 and 1915 as the founding era of American multiculturalism, Mizruchi provides a historical context that has been overlooked in contemporary debates about race, ethnicity, immigration, and the dynamics of modern capitalist society. Her analysis recuperates a legacy with the potential to both invigorate current battle lines and highlight points of reconciliation.

About the Author

Susan L. Mizruchi is professor of English and American studies at Boston University. Her four previous books include The Science of Sacrifice: American Literature and Modern Social Theory.


"[A] fascinating study of the convergence of capitalist development and ethnic identity. . . . Highly recommended."

"Takes the reader on a comprehensive journey through many of the major prose writings of the Gilded Age."

"This is a great book, well written and well thought through. Anyone interested in print culture should read it and use it as a model for further work on the role of print culture in shaping culture and multiculturalism."
--American Historical Review

"A comprehensive journey through many of the major prose writings of the Gilded Age"

"Mizruchi's sprawling narrative is impressive, well written, and well illustrated (her readings of photographs and advertisements are compelling, if daring) and, overall, a must-read for anyone interested in capitalist print culture at the turn of the last century."
--Journal of American History

"A compelling and informative study of American culture in the latter third of the nineteenth century."
--Yearbook of German-American Studies

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