Imagining Flight
Aviation and Popular Culture
Aviation
6.125 x 9.25, 224 pp.
18 b&w photos.
Pub Date: 11/03/2003
Centennial of Flight Series
  cloth
Price:        $33.00

978-1-58544-300-0
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2005 Choice Magazine’s Outstanding Academic Titles, presented by Choice Magazine

Imagining Flight

Aviation and Popular Culture

By A. Bowdoin Van Riper

The history of the air age has mostly been written from the perspective of aircraft designers, builders, and pilots.

Imagining Flight is a history of the air age as the rest of us have experienced it: on the pages of books, the screens of movie theaters, and the front pages of newspaper—and in airline cabins during peacetime and bomb shelters during wartime. It is a book about the ways in which people outside the aviation business have looked at, dreamed about, and worried over powered flight in the century since the Wright brothers first showed a startled world that it was possible.

Imagining Flight focuses on the United States, but also contrasts American ideas and attitudes with those of other air-minded nations, including Britain, France, Germany, and Japan. Among the topics covered are: dreams of aviation’s future, from the Wright brothers to the space shuttle; pilots as heroes, including Lindbergh, Earhart, Yeager, and the “Red Baron”; the promise (and threat) of aerial bombing; five decades of airline advertising and the changing expectations it created; aviation disasters, and the stories we tell about them; and flight in film and television, stories and songs.

Imagining Flight carries these themes into the twenty-first century and considers them in light of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the Columbiadisaster. It is thus the first book to explore the entire first century of flight through the eyes of those who watched it from the ground.

A. Bowdoin Van Riper is a historian of science and technology who teaches at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Georgia. He is also the author of Men Among the Mammoths (1993), Science in Popular Culture (2002), as well as numerous articles on the histories of geology, archaeology, and aerospace technology. He took his first airplane ride at the age of five, and has been looking up ever since.

What Readers Are Saying:

“Adds to the literature on the social and cultural meaning of technology in the twentieth century . . . fits the external world very well and provides a good sampling of reasons how and why Americans moved away from the idea of progress.”--William Trimble, Auburn University

“Adds to the literature on the social and cultural meaning of technology in the twentieth century . . . fits the external world very well and provides a good sampling of reasons how and why Americans moved away from the idea of progress.” --William Trimble, Auburn University

“Altogether a marvelous read, and full of insights. Bravo! Summing Up: Highly recommended.” --Choice

“This social history of aviation and the popular culture is concise and to-the-point. It is well written book geared for the general reader and absents itself from long discourses of esoteric, intellectual issues that would interest only a philosopher.” --William A. Nardo

“Lastly, it is very well documented; I was impressed with Van Riper’s notes and his bibliographic essay. Well worth the read.” --William A. Nardo

“It is an ambitious project. . . provides a useful overview of the literature in the field of aviation studies.” --Anne Collins Goodyear, assistant curator of prints and drawings at the Smiths

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