Behold, America: A history of America and the American Dream

When: Wednesday 27 April 2022Time: 14:00 - 15:00 BST

Sarah Churchwell is a professor of American Literature at the School of Advanced Studies, University of London. Sarah has been a judge for the Booker Prize and in April 2021, was long listed for the Orwell Prize for Journalism.

In this session, Sarah will be discussing her book Behold, America. In the book, Sarah offers a surprising account of twentieth-century Americans' fierce battle for the nation's soul. It follows the stories of two phrases -- the American dream and America First -- that once embodied opposing visions for America.

Starting as a Republican motto before becoming a hugely influential isolationist slogan during World War I, America First was always closely linked with authoritarianism and white supremacy. The American dream, meanwhile, initially represented a broad vision of democratic and economic equality. Churchwell traces these notions through the 1920s boom, the Depression, and the rise of fascism at home and abroad, laying bare the persistent appeal of demagoguery in America and showing us how it was resisted.  


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