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The Rise and Fall of American Posture

The Rise and Fall of American Posture DAVID YOSIFON and PETER N. STEARNS THE DECLINE OF ONCE-FERVENT STANDARDS is always an interesting historical phenomenon. "Stand up straight"; "Get your elbows off the table"; "If you're not careful, you'll grow up like that" once echoed through American homes. While the advice still lingers in obscure corners, there is no question that the American population has relaxed its collective backbone. Robert Bork used posture decline as the symbol for a larger decay of national standards in his recent book, Slouching towards Gomorrah,' In their heyday, posture concerns were partly symbolic, so it is not inappropriate to interpret their relaxation in the same light, without reducing the slackening of standards to a Borkian jeremiad. From another, less political vantage point, some contemporary doctors are wondering whether contemporary Americans have not pushed the neglect of posture too far, reducing their capacity to deal with injuries and painful back problems in an increasingly lengthy adulthood. Unquestionably, modern posture history provides another important chapter concerning the roles of discipline in nineteenth-century life and the growing informality of the twentieth century. While the origins of explicit posture standards have been fruitfully traced, their evolution has not gained historians' attention, yet it is at http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The American Historical Review Oxford University Press

The Rise and Fall of American Posture

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Publisher
Oxford University Press
Copyright
© Published by Oxford University Press.
Subject
Articles
ISSN
0002-8762
eISSN
1937-5239
DOI
10.1086/ahr/103.4.1057
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

DAVID YOSIFON and PETER N. STEARNS THE DECLINE OF ONCE-FERVENT STANDARDS is always an interesting historical phenomenon. "Stand up straight"; "Get your elbows off the table"; "If you're not careful, you'll grow up like that" once echoed through American homes. While the advice still lingers in obscure corners, there is no question that the American population has relaxed its collective backbone. Robert Bork used posture decline as the symbol for a larger decay of national standards in his recent book, Slouching towards Gomorrah,' In their heyday, posture concerns were partly symbolic, so it is not inappropriate to interpret their relaxation in the same light, without reducing the slackening of standards to a Borkian jeremiad. From another, less political vantage point, some contemporary doctors are wondering whether contemporary Americans have not pushed the neglect of posture too far, reducing their capacity to deal with injuries and painful back problems in an increasingly lengthy adulthood. Unquestionably, modern posture history provides another important chapter concerning the roles of discipline in nineteenth-century life and the growing informality of the twentieth century. While the origins of explicit posture standards have been fruitfully traced, their evolution has not gained historians' attention, yet it is at

Journal

The American Historical ReviewOxford University Press

Published: Oct 1, 1998

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