Professor John Hannigan's new book "Rise of the Spectacular: America in the 1950s" in press for July 2021

July 9, 2021 by Victoria Shi

Professor John Hannigan has a new book coming out in July 2021 titled "Rise of the Spectacular: America in the 1950s". This book is billed as a prequel to an earlier book titled "Fantasy City: Pleasure and Profit in the Postmodern Metropolis."

Professor Hannigan is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto. He teaches courses in cultural policy, urban political economy, and environmental sociology. His previous books have been nominated for various awards and have been translated into multiple languages. The "Rise of the Spectacular" will be the fifth book that he has published.

We've included the book description from his publisher Routledge:

"In this prequel to Fantasy City: Pleasure and Profit in the Postmodern Metropolis (1998), his acclaimed book about the post-industrial city as a site of theming, branding and simulated spaces, sociologist John Hannigan travels back in time to the 1950s. Unfairly stereotyped as ‘the tranquillized decade’, America at mid-century hosted an escalating proliferation and conjunction of ‘spectacular’ events, spaces, and technologies.

Spectacularization was collectively defined by five features. It reflected and legitimated a dramatic increase in scale from the local/regional to the national. It was mediated by the increasingly popular medium of television. It exploited middle-class tension between comfortable conformity and desire for safe adventure. It celebrated technological progress, boosterism and military power. It was orchestrated and marketed by a constellation, sometimes a coalition, of entrepreneurs and dream merchants, most prominently Walt Disney. In this wide-ranging odyssey across mid-century America, Hannigan visits leisure parks (Cypress Gardens), parades (Tournament of Roses), mega-events (Squaw Valley Olympics, Century 21 Exposition), architectural styles (desert modernism), innovations (underwater photography, circular film projection) and everyday wonders (chemistry sets). Collectively, these fashioned the ‘spectacular gaze’, a prism through which Americans in the 1950s were acculturated to and conscripted into a vision of a progressive, technology-based future.

Rise of the Spectacular will appeal to architects, landscape designers, geographers, sociologists, historians, and leisure/tourism researchers, as well as non-academic readers who are by a fascinating era in history."