Popular Culture and the Canon

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Zusammenfassung der Vorlesung Popular Culture and the Canon bei Anne Koenen im SS 09.
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  What is considered to be Popular Culture ? What does Popular Culture reportedly do? soap operas, cartoons,” Trivialliteratur”, hollywood movies, stars, fast food, popularmusic, tv-shows (game shows, quiz shows), tv-series, coca-cola, mcdonalds, ...  appropriates things and changes them  making people stupid, entertaining, simple/standardized, passive  cooperates with capitalism  popular culture is consumed by people (high culture is not) What is associated with Popular Culture? –the painting “ Campbell’s Soup ” by Andy Warhol represents Pop Art (mostrecognizable artwork in America), Comic-Paintings by Roy Lichtenstein: Pop Artis one example where Pop Culture seeped into High Culture–first interracial kiss in Star Trek (most successful TV-series in the US) in thethird season episode “Plato’s stepchildren” (first broadcast on November 22,1968)–“ Coca Cola ” (most popular icon of America/popular culture) ã urban myths: Coca Cola dissolves meat, Coca Cola contains acid, CocaCola invented the modern image of Santa Claus ã critique: „ Coca-Colonisation und Kalter Krieg: Die Kulturmission der USAin Österreich nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg“ by Austrian History ProfessorReinhold Wagnleitner Critique –Popular Culture is considered to be trash, e.g. by  Adorno   and    Horkheimer  (Frankfurter Schule) in “Die Kulturindustrie” (“Dialektik der Aufklärung”, 1944):every culture becomes a product, the esthetic itself becomes the function of theproduct–mass media are harmful: the culture industry indoctrinates the masses ,they come to enjoy things that are against their better interest (creating of falseconsciousness/false needs), consequence: profits for the capitalists; peopleshould have to suffer in order to be educated–John G. Cawelti (important scholar of popular culture): “ formula culture ” -->standardized fiction, e.g. adventure, mystery, romance, plots are predictableand lack srcinality–in Cultural Studies, Postmodernism states that there are three kinds of readings:preferred reading, alternative reading, oppositional reading; popular culture:only preferred reading Frankfurter Schule (Formation 1931): Jürgen Habermas, Herbert Marcuse, WalterBenjamin What is considered to belong to the Canon ? What does it allegedly do? books by authors who are male, pale and Yale, binary oppositions : good/evil,white/black, male/female, heterosexual/homosexual, rich/poor (Postmodernism tries toundermine these dichotomies)  enlightening, educating, sophisticated, active, oppositional to capitalism  authority over the meanings of popular culture  high culture can make us see beyond (false) consciousness  in no regard about fixed forms; unique (vs. mass-produced)  it’s all about power, race, sex, gender  change in the 1960’s: Black Power Movement, Women’s Movement, HippiesMovement, Civil Rights Movement, Anti-Vietnam Movement (only possible throughmedia exposure)  led to the   Canon debate , that came along with the critique of the segregation of blacks and whites, e.g. in trains or lunch counters (small restaurants, similar todiners) Wikipedia : Western canon is a term used to denote a canon of  books , and, morewidely, music and art , that has been the most influential in Western culture. Itasserts a compendium of the “greatest works of artistic merit”. Such a canon isimportant to the theory of  educational perennialism (Beständigkeit) and thedevelopment of “ high culture ”. Bourdieu (important french critic/philosopher) – “Taste is not neutral, it’s aninstrument of power because it’s class-related; it’s a message. There are differentperceptions of taste in different countries.”According to Pierre Bourdieu all our acts are led by social pressures. He shows in abrilliant way, that what we consider todaynaturalis definitelycultural. Our tastes in food, drink, music, cinema... do not depend on us but on our social background.When Pierre Bourdieu contends that taste always trickles downwards from the rulingclasses to the masses, he forgets about street fashion, which has trickled upwards inthe case of mod fashion, punk and hip hop, first attested in the streets of largeEuropean cities and which have since influenced haute couture. Folk Culture – Popular Culture – Mass Culture vs. HighCulture Our culture has become a visual culture – we find representations everywhere, inpaintings, photographs, movies etc.Folk Culture used to be the opposite of High Culture; today Mass Culture is theopposite of High Culture, Folk Culture is still “better” than Mass Culture Folk Culture expression of the inner self, no orientation on the masses,e.g. quiltingaccepted in theory, because it is “authentic” Popular Culture comes already with a valued judgement; term is more neutral than“Mass Culture”identity is mostly constructed in Popular Culture (food, music, ...) Mass Culture alienation, the human’s work structure is dictated bymachinesfilm: Charlie Chaplin’s “Modern Times” (1936) High Culture the audience has to prepare before a cultural event (if culture istoo accessible/entertaining, it is considered not no be good) –typical for Modernism Why do we need theory? –to know what we have to look for–to have a background for analyzing  Consumer Culture history:–civilization in the Western areas of the US since 1776: nothing to consume,isolated life, no roads, no communication, no newspapers  life was about work/no way of delegating work–then, new thing in the cities: Department Stores (end of 19 th centurybeginning in Philadelphia, then New York) ã created for the increasing middle class that becomes more and moreinfluential(plus: because of machines people had more leisure time) ã fixed prices (before: shop owners could state the price by looking at thecustomer) ã salespeople treated all customers equal ã products on displays ã perpetual improvements: artificial light, second floor, restrooms etc. ã streets were made attractive for shopping  instant success in the cities – centers of communityfeatures:a)shift of emphasis from production to consumptionb)standardization, mass production & mass consumptionc)technological development & the expansion of leisure timed)the investment of products with symbolic “meaning”e)the critique of consumerism as an inherent feature of consumer societies Consumerism – blurring the line between “necessity” (which can be satisfied) and“desire” (which can never be satisfied)–US = first consumer culture that emerged (in the early 20 th century)–rural areas were cut off from consumerism: emergence of the Mail Order Catalogue (first one Montgomery Wards, 1872, not as successfully as Sears,Roebuck & Company, huge success between 1900-40) ã houses came by railroad in numbered boxes  reliable railroad & postal sytem needed --> important reforms:  rural free delivery: packages delivered to the farms for free (US postalservice)  Parcel post act: packages become less expensive  CoD: Cash/Collect on Delivery – giving the money directly to thepostman ã ordering instructions printed in 19 different languages ã blacks were not discriminated Mail Order Catalogues – raceblind, free of purchase, used to learn English, widerspread than the bible  brought about according literature, e.g. ã short story “The Man Who Was Almost A Man” by Richard Wright (about alittle boy who bought a gun via catalogue) ã short story “Umney’s Last Case” by Stephen King (Sears & Roebuckmentioned)  important role on binding effect    (effort?) of cultures  –consumerism builds the   identity  –defined to consumption --> men are associated with producing stuff, womenwith consuming   production & maleness = active vs. consumerism &femininity = passive Consumerism became a triumph   – all European cultures are also consumer cultures(while consumerism is identified with Americanization in Europe) Criticism is an inherent feature of  Consumer Cultures . Consumerism is a flexiblesystem and can manage criticism, e.g. Whole Foods (organic food), which is called“Supermarket Pastoral” by Michael Pollan. Consumerism   --> not without mass production --> not without Standardization , e.g.in clothinge xample : Sears asked customers to send in their measurements  it became a database; out of this they made sizes (it took about 2 decades)  function of clothing was found (form identity)  after Standardization clothes no longer demonstrated status(ca. in the 1920’s, everyone could afford the clothes)  democracising through Standardization; integration through dresses(immigrants)  but: Standardization in clothing = cultural Homogenization (pejorative term) Marketing/Technology  –special names for certain products from the 1920’s, e.g. washing machine “TheNymph”  women began to be the purchasers in the household–transition from fact-orientated to emotional-orientated Marketing–in Mail Order Catalogues: one thing on one page, not everything cramped–development of the Bonanza farm which implied commercial farming  new technology needed; farmers make money and turn into customers  household technology changed the look of the US–shift in attitudes towards animals– Fordization = new form of work, assembly line work, life rhythm changed (NewMarxism – alienation...)–transition from traditional to industrial farming– transition from attention to the individual animal to generic breedings  animals are no natural beings, but machines under modern conditions(attitudes changed profoundly with the help of technology in the 1900’s)–technology is used to save strength and time  farmers have more leisure time, but are cut off from urban entertainment  Catalogues came up with slide machines–rural areas: 1910 – 2% of farms electricified, 1935 – already 11%  change after 1935: rural electrification (Roosevelt administration) Brands –increasingly brands played a role, consumers took notice–in consumerism people inquire literacy–people are willing to pay more to get a brand = phenomenon  brands convey security and are used to build an identity–feeling of community/feeling special–film: “American Psycho” – protagonists characterized by brand names, e.g.Walkman, Armani–today: Energizer Bunny, Bud Light Dog
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