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Dancing in the Streets

Ehrenreich uncovers the origins of communal celebration in human biology and culture. She discovers that the same elements come up in every human culture throughout history: a love of masking, carnival, music-making and dance. Although sixteenth-century Europeans began to view mass festivities as foreign and savage, Ehrenreich shows that they were indigenous to the West, from the ancient Greeks' worship of Dionysus to the medieval practices of Christianity as a danced religion. Exhilarating in its scholarly range, humane, witty and impassioned, Dancing in the Streets will generate debate and soul searching.
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About the Author

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of fourteen books, including the bestselling Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch. She lives in New York State.


It is a truism that everyone seeks happiness, but public manifestations of it have not always been free of recrimination. Colonial regimes have defined spectacles as an inherently "primitive" act and elders harrumph at youthful exultation. Social critic and bestselling author Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) teases out the many incarnations of sanctioned public revelry, starting with the protofeminist oreibasia, or Dionysian winter dance, in antiquity, and from there covering trance, ancient mystery cults and carnival, right up to the rock and roll and sports-related mass celebrations of our own day. "Why is so little left" of such rituals, she asks, bemoaning the "loss of ecstatic pleasure." Ehrenreich necessarily delineates the repressive reactions to such ecstasy by the forces of so-called "civilization," reasonably positing that rituals of joy are nearly as innate as the quest for food and shelter. Complicating Ehrenreich's schema is her own politicized judgment, dismissing what she sees as the debased celebrations of sporting events while writing approvingly of the 1960s "happenings" of her own youth and the inevitable street theater that accompanies any modern mass protest, yet all but ignoring the Burning Man festival in Nevada and tut-tutting ravers' reliance on artificial ecstasy. That aside, Ehrenreich writes with grace and clarity in a fascinating, wide-ranging and generous account. (Jan. 10) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

'Witty and quizzical - Her lightness of touch is commendable' Simon Callow, Guardian 'Dancing in the Streets is a genuine triumph of popular critical scholarship - the punchy elegance of her prose makes this an essential purchase' Independent

From Dionysian festivities to danced religion in the Middle Ages to sports, carnivals, and rock'n'roll, humans like to get together and party, claims the author of Blood Rites-which tracked our tendency to get together and fight. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

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