Anna G. Creadick, associate professor of English, has recently published her book, “Perfectly Average: The Pursuit of Normality in Postwar America” (University of Massachusetts Press).
Creadick describes “Perfectly Average” as an investigation of “how and why ‘normality’ re-emerged as a potent homogenizing category of postwar U.S. culture.” By the end of World War II, Americans needed a return to “normal” after years of economic depression and war, she explains. That goal became an obsession and the category of normality formed in almost every aspect of life.
In authoring this book, Creadick takes on a subject that hasn’t often been seen as a topic of historical inquiry, and asks the reader to question whether normal was “Descriptive of an average or prescriptive of an ideal.” Ultimately, she argues, “In the post-war decades, normality was both highly seductive and impossible to achieve, because it meant becoming perfectly average.”
“Perfectly Average: The Pursuit of Normality in Postwar America” uses compelling evidence such as the “Norm and Norma” models produced during the war by sexologists and anthropologists-statistical composites of “normal” American bodies, a Norma look-a-like contest in Ohio, and the “Harvard Study of Normal Men” to convey how normality was cast not as something innate or inborn, but rather as a quality to be actively pursued.
Reviewing the text for the University of Massachusetts Press, author and journal editor Gordon Hutner writes, “[Creadick] discovers an extraordinary archive — of sociological studies, advertisements, novels, and films — to explore how the culture circulated the traits and values with which it most wanted to identify itself and against which it most feared identification. Lucid, nuanced, engaging, and astute, Creadick’s approach illuminates the complex formulation of the everyday.” Psychiatrist and author Peter D. Kramer writes, “‘Perfectly Average’ is an eye-opening analysis of the pressures for conformity and the energetic resistance to them that shaped postwar America. Beautifully conceived and executed.”
Creadick joined the English Department in 2001 and teaches a variety of courses such as Southern Fictions, American Literature from Crane, Sexuality and American Literature, Cultural Theory, and Popular Fiction. She earned her undergraduate degree in English and Education from Appalachian State University, her master’s degree in American Studies from Boston College and her Ph.D. in English/American Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She brings an interdisciplinary and historic approach to the study of literary texts. Her current research areas are 20th century U.S. literature and culture, the post-World War II period (1940s-1960s), Southern and Appalachian Studies, and Gender and Sexuality. Her publications have appeared in such journals as MOSAIC, English Journal, IRIS, and Appalachian Journal.
“Perfectly Average” is now available for purchase at the College Store.