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Classics in the Modern WorldA Democratic Turn?$
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Lorna Hardwick and Stephen Harrison

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199673926

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199673926.001.0001

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Civilization and Savagery at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition

Civilization and Savagery at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition

(p.104) (p.105) 8 Civilization and Savagery at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition
Classics in the Modern World

Robert Davis

Oxford University Press

This chapter looks at the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition to consider how fair officials encouraged audiences to align ancient cultural referents and contemporary social evolution. Dubbed ‘World’s Universities’, world’s fairs were opportunities for organizers to plan environments that would position spectators as subjects at the pinnacle of a long historical process of social evolution. With so much at stake, fair officials devoted considerable effort to teaching spectators ‘ways of seeing’ the fairs. This chapter looks at how guidebooks, writers, and designers constructed fair space within evolutionary paradigms to distinguish between contemporary European ‘civilized’ culture and foreign 'savage' cultures by associating the former with antiquity. The chapter compares these assumptions with a selected overview of first-hand accounts, suggesting that fairgoers largely ignored these efforts in favour of authoring their own interpretations. This chapter’s ‘democratic turn’ proposes that in the nineteenth century ancient Greece and Rome were constantly being refigured and revised not only by the makers of culture, but by its users.

Keywords:   space, evolution, exposition, spectators, nineteenth century

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