The Spectacle of Flight Aviation and the Western Imagination, 1920-1950 Robert Wohl

Publication date:
08 Jun 2007
376 pages: 259 x 203 x 21mm
280 b/w + 80 color illus.

In the decades following the First World War, when aviation was still a revelation, flight was perceived as a spectacle to delight the eyes and stimulate the imagination. Historian Robert Wohl takes us back to this time, recapturing the achievements of pioneering aviators and exploring flight as a source of cultural inspiration in the United States and Europe. Wohl begins the story of flight in this era with a fresh account of the impact of Charles Lindbergh's dramatic New York-Paris flight, then goes on to explain how Mussolini identified his Fascist regime with the modernist cachet of aviation. Wohl shows how the Hollywood film industry--drawing on the talents of such director-flyers as William Wellman and Howard Hawks and the eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes--created the aviation film; how writers such as Antoine de Saint-Exupery helped foster France's self-image as the "winged nation"; and how the spectacle of flight reached its tragic apotheosis during the bombing campaigns of the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Generously illustrated with rare photographs, paintings, and posters and elegantly written, this book offers a gripping account of aviation and its hold on the popular imagination during the years between 1920 and 1950.

Robert Wohl is Distinguished Professor of History, University of California at Los Angeles.

?Fascinating and beautifully written. . . . With its evocative illustrations and well-researched text so much comes back to us from another time. . . . I was riveted.??Richard Edmonds, Birmingham Post

'Robert Wohl charts in fascinating detail the manifold reverbarations of flight, literary, political, artistic, intellectual. Much more than a plane spotter's feast, this is a thoughtful, wide-ranging, meticulous (as befits a history professor) analysis of arguably the most salient new fact of the time.' - Montagu Curzon, The Spectator

'Engagingly written and lavishly illustrated. . . . This highly accessible cultural history stands out as much for its skilful use of pictorial and textual sources. Wohl deserves a wide readership for uncovering the destructive as well as the creative impulses that have contributed to the making of a technology that present-day society could not function without.' - Bernhard Rieger, History Today, April 2006