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Down with the Old Canoe: A Cultural History…
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Down with the Old Canoe: A Cultural History of the Titanic Disaster

by Steven Biel

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This was a pretty interesting book, if you're interested in the Titanic. I learned a few things and some of the ideas about cultural influences were a bit of a reach, but it was well researched and covered a lot of territory. ( )
  bcrowl399 | Mar 8, 2018 |
This book isn't so much about the Titanic itself, as about the effect the sinking of the ship had on culture after the disaster. It looked at such things as gender, class and race; also, songs and poems written about the Titanic; also, the books, tv, and movies that came about (this was published before James Cameron's movie, however).

I wish I would have noticed the subtitle before requesting it from the library (or even before putting it on my tbr... did I? It was too long ago). It just wasn't what I was interested in. I skimmed though a lot of it. Probably the most interesting chapter to me was the one that mainly focused on William Lord's book (written in the 1950s), A Night to Remember. Overall, though, it just wasn't interesting to me. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jun 28, 2015 |
As the subtitle mentions, Down with the Old Canoe is a cultural history of the Titanic; it does not describe the sinking of the ship. Biel divides the book into two sections: "Meanings" and "Memories." In "Meanings" he places the Titanic in the history of its time -- 1912 -- and discusses the sinking in relation to the social issues of that time period including the suffrage and labor movements and the ideas of class and problem of immigration. In this discussion the proper place of women in society (thought by many to be in the home) and the emphasis placed on the upper class passengers in accounts of the disaster are featured. Biel explains how both suffragists and anti-suffragists used the Titanic to bolster their arguments for and against the vote for women.

In the "Memories" section, Biel discusses the importance of the Titanic in history from the 1950s through 1990s (when the book was published). He describes the impact of Walter Lord's "A Night to Remember" on the culture in the 1950s, and to a much lesser extent other writings about the Titanic; the Titanic Historical Society; and efforts to discover the Titanic including its discovery and salvage operations in the 1980s.

Highly recommended to people who know something about the Titanic. ( )
  sallylou61 | May 28, 2015 |
Well, this book is nothing if not well-researched. Still, there wasn't really a lot of "new" here. Anyone who knows the history of the eras, and has studied the history of the Titanic, will already have come to many of Biel's conclusions on her own. On the other hand, I can't imagine this particular book being very interesting to someone who is brand new to Titanic history and mythology. Much backstory is needed to understand most of the references and most all popular beliefs about what happened during the Titanic tragedy are dispelled here anyway.

The poem about "Votes for Women/Boats for Women" is one of my favorite bits (see page 30). As one who is very much against most of the philosophies behind the suffragist movement, as well as the more modern feminist movements, I found the irony hilarious. I was also surprised at the number of black folk songs that were written about the disaster. I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable Titanic historian, but I'd never considered how the event affected the black community who were treated as lower class citizens of the time.

At the very beginning of the book, I was reminded about my feelings after the 9/11 terrorist attack on the US. I wrote, "I wonder how many people felt the same way about the Titanic as I felt about 9/11---how could this happen to us?" I felt like an attack on America was not possible---like it was not allowed. Later, on page 153, Second Officer Lightoller echoed my thoughts: "I know what the sea can do. But this is different...because we were so sure. Because even though it's happened, it's still unbelievable. I don't think I'll ever feel sure again. About anything."

I can't say that I'm glad I read this...but I don't think it was a waste of time either. My feelings on it are mostly indifferent. I think there was just a bit *too* much research---too much quoting---for my tastes. But, then again, it was expected coming in. ( )
  lostinavalonOR | Feb 25, 2014 |
A fascinating study of the effects of the Titanic disaster on society, culturally and politically. Great book for those interested in sociology, secondly to buffs of the Great Ocean Liners. ( )
  BogartFan | Sep 1, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0393316769, Paperback)

The largest movable object ever constructed by man when it was launched, the supposedly unsinkable Titanic has inspired novels, songs, poetry, movies, and even a mysterious black stoker named Shine who never existed on the actual ship. Steven Biel traces all these avatars and explores the social and cultural myths that the disaster gave rise to--and destroyed. The recent attempts to raise the Titanic's wreckage have demonstrated that the myths have not lost their power.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:51 -0400)

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The author examines the many ways in which the sinking of the Titanic influenced social thinking, sermons, songs, theater, and journalism.

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W.W. Norton

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