Belgrad, Daniel 1964-

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BELGRAD, Daniel 1964-

PERSONAL: Born January 15, 1964. Education: Attended Princeton University; Yale University, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Office—Humanities and American Studies, College of Arts and Sciences, University of South Florida, 4202 East Fowler Ave., CPR 107, Tampa, FL 33620. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: University of South Florida, Tampa, College of Arts and Sciences, assistant professor of humanities and American studies.


The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1998.

SIDELIGHTS: In The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation in the Arts in Postwar America, Daniel Belgrad attempts to account for the unprecedented rise of spontaneous artistic expression in a variety of arts, including painting, dance, literature, and music in the decades immediately following World War II. According to the author, many postwar artists reacted negatively to the increasing pressure of corporate culture and set about creating ways of expressing themselves in art characterized by spontaneity. These artists "produced abstract expressionism and bebop jazz, beat poetry and Zen pottery, pop art," and other "antitraditional movements," reviewer K. Marantz observed in Choice. Belgrad's artists include the painter Jackson Pollock, poets Charles Olson and Allen Ginsberg, writer Jack Kerouac, ceramicist Peter Voulkos, philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, musician Charlie Parker, and others. Times Literary Supplementcontributor Roger Kimball complained that Belgrad's theory fails to consider the work of numerous significant figures in the arts he examines, among them George Balanchine in dance, Wallace Stevens in poetry, and Edmund Wilson in criticism, and others. Kimball implies that the aforementioned were not advocates of spontaneous artistic expression although they remain pivotal figures in the era studied.

"Belgrad is not wrong to understand his artists, writers and musicians as expressing antagonism toward the destructiveness, spiritual and material, of modern society," asserted Art in America reviewer Paul Mattick, Jr. Where the author goes wrong, Mattick continued, is in his tendency "to oversimplify the avant-garde's purported antagonist." Mattick asserted that the unprecedented success of American corporate culture in the 1950s not only brought with it the repressive social conformity for which the decade is remembered, but greatly expanded consumer buying-power and leisure time and enriched the nation's educational system, thereby not only supporting artistic expression but, through universities, giving artists "spaces for 'spontaneity' to flourish." While Belgrad's insights may have more limited applicability than his title implies, a contributor to Boston Review said that the author writes "a compelling narrative, putting living flesh on shorthand intuitions that connect North Beach to Black Mountain College, Fenollosa to Pollock, Jackson Lears's No Place of Grace to Todd Gitlin's The Sixties."



American Historical Review, December, 1999, George H. Roeder Jr., review of The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America, p. 1708.

American Literature, December, 1999, Wendy Martin, review of The Culture of Spontaneity, p. 812.

American Studies, fall, 1998, Karal Ann Marling, review of The Culture of Spontaneity, p. 200.

American Studies International, June, 1999, Sandy Zipp, review of The Culture of Spontaneity, p. 109.

Art in America, March, 1999, p. 37.

Boston Review, 1996.

Choice, November, 1998, p. 506.

Contemporary Sociology, May, 1999, Eugene Halton, review of The Culture of Spontaneity, p. 323.

Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, summer, 1999, Tobyn Demarco, review of The Culture of Spontaneity, p. 384.

Journal of American History, June, 1999, Michael Leja, review of The Culture of Spontaneity, p. 306.

Times Literary Supplement, December 18, 1998, p. 22.