April Program – New Location!!!!

What Would Mrs. Astor Do?  – Cecelia Tichi

6:00 – 7:00 p.m., at Dalt’s American Grill On White Bridge on March 4, 2019

Courtesy of Jamie Adams

Cecelia Tichi is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English and Professor of American Studies at Vanderbilt University. She received her M.A. from Johns Hopkins University and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis in 1968. Before coming to Vanderbilt in 1987, she taught at Boston University. At Vanderbilt, she teaches classes in nineteenth and twentieth century American literature, focusing on aspects of culture from consumerism and social critique to country music. She has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Radcliffe Institute, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation under the auspices of the Henry E. Huntington Library. She is the 2009 recipient of the Jay B. Hubbell prize for distinguished work in American literary studies. awarded by the American Literature Division of the Modern Language Association.

Her latest book project, What Would Mrs. Astor Do? The Essential Guide to the Manners and Mores of the Gilded Age (New York University Press, 2018), discusses the many rules for making it to the top tier of high society during the late 19th century .


From New York University Press:

A richly illustrated romp with America’s Gilded Age leisure class—and those angling to join it  Mark Twain called it the Gilded Age. Between 1870 and 1900, the United States’ population doubled, accompanied by an unparalleled industrial expansion, and an explosion of wealth unlike any the world had ever seen. America was the foremost nation of the world, and New York City was its beating heart. There, the richest and most influential—Thomas Edison, J. P. Morgan, Edith Wharton, the Vanderbilts, Andrew Carnegie, and more—became icons, whose comings and goings were breathlessly reported in the papers of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst. It was a time of abundance, but also bitter rivalries, in work and play. The Old Money titans found themselves besieged by a vanguard of New Money interlopers eager to gain entrée into their world of formal balls, debutante parties, opera boxes, sailing regattas, and summer gatherings at Newport. Into this morass of money and desire stepped Caroline Astor. 

 Mrs. Astor, an Old Money heiress of the first order, became convinced that she was uniquely qualified to uphold the manners and mores of Gilded Age America. Wherever she went, Mrs. Astor made her judgments, dictating proper behavior and demeanor, men’s and women’s codes of dress, acceptable patterns of speech and movements of the body, and what and when to eat and drink. The ladies and gentlemen of high society took note. “What would Mrs. Astor do?” became the question every social climber sought to answer. And an invitation to her annual ball was a golden ticket into the ranks of New York’s upper crust. This work serves as a guide to manners as well as an insight to Mrs. Astor’s personal diary and address book, showing everything from the perfect table setting to the array of outfits the elite wore at the time. Channeling the queen of the Gilded Age herself, Cecelia Tichi paints a portrait of New York’s social elite, from the schools to which they sent their children, to their lavish mansions and even their reactions to the political and personal scandals of the day.  

 Ceceilia Tichi invites us on a beautifully illustrated tour of the Gilded Age, transporting readers to New York at its most fashionable. A colorful tapestry of fun facts and true tales, What Would Mrs. Astor Do? presents a vivid portrait of this remarkable time of social metamorphosis, starring Caroline Astor, the ultimate gatekeeper.

Tichi is the author of nine scholarly books, most recently What Would Mrs. Astor Do: A Complete Guide to the Manner and Mores of the Gilded Age and Jack London: A Writer’s Fight for a Better America, as well as the editor of several others, including Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky-Tonk Bars (1998). Her books include Shifting Gears: Technology, Literature, Culture in Modernist America (1987) and Electronic Hearth: Creating an American Television Culture (1991),Exposes and Excess Muckraking in America 1900/2000. Her most recent book, Civic Passions: 7 Who Launched Progressive America (And What They Teach Us), was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2009. Her articles on a variety of topics and authors have appeared in journals such as American Literature, American Literary History, and The Boston Review. She is also the author of five novels: Jealous Heart (1997), Cryin’ Time (1998), Fall to Pieces (2000), Now You See Her (2005), and All in One Piece (2006).

Jonathan’s has closed so this month we’ll meet at Dalt’s American Grill on White Bridge Road at 5:30 for socializing and dinner, and the program will start at 6:00 on Thursday, April 4th.

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