Ephemeral Histories of Modernity

Edited by David Prochaska, Jordana Mendelson

Paperback - £53.95

Publication date:

15 April 2010

Length of book:

256 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271035284

Products of modernity, postcards continue to provoke comment today as in the nineteenth century. With their unique status as interdisciplinary image-objects that cross lines of geography, economy, and gender, postcards epitomize the complex history of visual culture. These often sweet, nostalgic, inexpensive mementos of commercial culture have also been carriers, even instigators, of colonialist exoticism and political propaganda. They straddle the by now largely obliterated line between “high” and “low” art, between an earlier modernist art history and more recent work in visual culture. This fully illustrated volume is the first of its kind to bring together the latest interdisciplinary research on postcards as a significant area of scholarly inquiry.

In addition to the editors, the contributors are Rebecca J. DeRoo, Ellen Handy, Elizabeth B. Heuer, Timothy Van Laar, Annelies Moors, Cary Nelson, John O’Brian, Naomi Schor, Kimberly A. Smith, Rachel Snow, Nancy Stieber, and Andrés Mario Zervigón.

“This fascinating collection of essays, well introduced and framed by the editors, marks the arrival of the study of postcards as an important component of the growing field of visual studies. Although the discipline of learning about societies from looking at their postcards has a history that goes back to distinguished earlier practitioners such as the Surrealist poet Paul Éluard and the great American photographer of everyday life, Walker Evans, this book will serve as both a benchmark and an incitement to further study of this valuable archive of cultural traces.”

—Herman Lebovics, SUNY Trustees Distinguished Professor, Stony Brook University