CMN 2180: Lecture One Sept 15 2011
The study of pop culture a historical overview and purposes:
pop culture is a mass culture, an everyday culture, a well liked culture, a culture of the people.
This means, in part, that pop culture is a culture of the masses and by the masses for mass consumption.
It is also mass mediated.
Denotes all the knowledge, technologies, values, beliefs, customs and behaviors common to people
While simple societies may have only a single integrated culture that is shared by everyone, complex
societies can accommodate many layers and levels of culture and subcultures
To study pop culture is to study modern society.
Simple Comparison of traditional and modern societies F. Tonnies
Traditional (Gemeinschaft): Belief in divine Modern (Gesellschaft): Belief in reason
Village , peasants, agriculture City, proletariat, industrialization
Local exchange National and international exchange
Demographic dispersion Mass dispersion
Folklore culture Mass culture technologies of contact
Common culture and community Interest groups
Generality of roles Specialized roles
Binding ties Contractual ties
Group mentality and common knowledge Anonymity and individualism High Culture:
High culture includes things like classical music, serious novels, poetry, dance, high or ‘fine’ art, and other
cultural products which are usually appreciate by only a relatively small number of educated people
(versus) popular culture where “popular’ used to mean “low”, “base”, “vulgar” or “common people”
Cultural studies developed as an attempt to assess, understand and explore the role of culture in everyday
Arguing that the notion of culture must be expanded to include aspects of pop culture such as magazines,
newspapers and other products of media industries. Cultural studies analyzes the ways in which meaning is
constructed in these artifacts or “texts”
This new approach analyzes the emergence of mass mediated pop culture and interrogates the connection
between culture and society.
This work stood in sharp contrast to the tendominant approach to the study of culture, which was
concerned with ‘high’ culture (aesthetics’) and the maintenance of a strong cultural tradition.
Richard Hoggarts: The Uses of Literacy:
Chronicles the existence and eventually the demise of a strong working class culture in the early 20 th
Broadens the application of literary studies to take in newspapers, magazines, popular music and so on. He
examines the interconnections between theses and the strictures of individual’s’ everyday lives, especially
what he calls the working class.
The personal experience of working class culture was at odds with the scholarly tradition of Britain that
devalued and marginalized such cultures.
Raymond Williams: Culture and Society 17801950 and The Long Revolution
Aesthetics judgments as to what constitutes ‘bad ‘ and ‘good’ create hierarchical relationships between the
culture of the affluent and the culture of the working classes.
Explains the process by which culture serves to reinforce hierarchal relationships within society
“popular culture was not identified by the people but by the others, and it still carries two older senses:
inferior kinds of work and work deliberately setting out to win favor.. as well as the more modern sense of
wellliked by many people.”
“Culture is ordinary: that is the first fact.” “we use the word culture in these two senses: to mean a whole way of life—the common meanings; to
mean the arts and learning—the special processes of discovery and creative effort. Some writers reserve
the word for one or other of these senses.; I insist on both, and on the significance of the their conjunction.
The questions I ask about our culture are questions about deep personal meaning. Culture is ordinary, in
every society and in every mind”
so, while culture is seen as an important way in which individuals participate in their community, it is also
critically regarded as a means by which unequal, hierarchical, social relations are continually reinforced.
E.P. Thompson’s :The Making of the English Working Class :
Class as a process and not a thing
move away from statistical and economic explanations of class tot the daily experiences and the
relationships of communities. He portrays the working class as in control of their own making (with class
consciousness) and not as victims of history.
Development of an approach to a cultural inquiry that engages with pop culture critically and thoughtfully
collectively, although they did not aim purposely to create cultural studies, they attempted to understand the
connection between culture and society in a way that did not reproduce the dominant assumptions but
rather questioned them
Purpose: “cultural studies, therefore, poses questions that are specifically concerned with the means by