Acting Up: Free Speech, Pragmatism, and American Performance in the late 20th Century

Acting Up: Free Speech, Pragmatism, and American Performance in the late 20th Century
Stephen Nunns
April 2011

ISBN-13:  978-1-59332-465-0 / Hardcover
Dimensions:  5.5 x 8.5 / xviii, 292 pages

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Description

Nunns examines how free speech became a centerpiece of American identity during the 20th century and how ideas of freedom of expression came to a head during the “Culture Wars” in the 1980s and ’90s. He explores four case histories: performance artist Karen Finley and her court case revolving around public funding for the arts; the lawsuits involving the film I am Curious (Yellow); the controversy surrounding a community’s performance of Angels in America; and the racist songwriting of David Allen Coe.

Acting Up demonstrates that free speech relies upon the cultural tides of the moment. The book offers a pragmatic approach to law, politics, and culture, by also investigating the founders of pragmatism (William James, Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.), and examining how their ideas continue to shape the American intellectual landscape.

About the Author

Stephen Nunns is an assistant professor and director of the MFA Program in Theatre Arts at Towson University. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Village Voice, and other publications. From 1996 to 2000, he was an associate editor at American Theatre magazine, where he regularly covered national politics and the arts. He holds a Ph.D. in performance studies from New York University

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