Violence in American Popular Culture
by David Schmid, Editor
November 2015, 623pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
2 volumes, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3205-5
$151, £117, 132€, A207
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3206-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

By age 18, a U.S. teen will have seen 16,000 simulated murders.

This timely collection provides a historical overview of violence in American popular culture from the Puritan era to the present and across a range of media.

Few topics are discussed more broadly today than violence in American popular culture. Unfortunately, such discussion is often unsupported by fact and lacking in historical context. This two-volume work aims to remedy that through a series of concise, detailed essays that explore why violence has always been a fundamental part of American popular culture, the ways in which it has appeared, and how the nature and expression of interest in it have changed over time.

Each volume of the collection is organized chronologically. The first focuses on violent events and phenomena in American history that have been treated across a range of popular cultural media. Topics include Native American genocide, slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and gender violence. The second volume explores the treatment of violence in popular culture as it relates to specific genres—for example, Puritan “execution sermons,” dime novels, television, film, and video games. An afterword looks at the forces that influence how violence is presented, discusses what violence in pop culture tells us about American culture as a whole, and speculates about the future.


  • Provides a narrative of the development of violence in American popular culture, illustrating both continuity and change
  • Combines an overview of each essay's subject matter with in-depth analysis of specific examples
  • Features discussion of well-known portrayers of violence, such as film and television, as well as lesser-known sources—for example, murder ballads and Puritan sermons—helping readers place contemporary concerns and examples into a detailed historical context
  • Suggests directions for future research and other developments in the field
  • Includes a keyword index to enable readers to track continuities across the various essays
David Schmid, PhD, is associate professor of English at the University at Buffalo. His published works include Natural Born Celebrities: Serial Killers in American Culture and the edited essay collection Globalization and the State in Contemporary Crime Fiction. Schmid holds a doctorate in modern thought and literature from Stanford University.


"Taken together, the two volumes cover all the topics this reviewer could expect and some that he could not anticipate. Summing Up: Recommended."—Choice, August 1, 2016
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