Intro to Christianity.docx

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St. Michael's College Courses
Jennifer Harris

• “Hurt” by Johnny Cash • Original by Nine Inch Nails, written by Trent Reznor in 1994 for Downward Spiral album • Then covered in 2002 by Johnny Cash on American IV: The Man Comes Around, produced by Rick Rubin • Huge success in 50s, 60s, 70s but fell out of popularity except in certain country music until Rick Rubin collaborated with him • Video directed by Mark Romanek, one of few video film makers whose work as been considered dangerously moving into the areas of high culture – this video and one of Madonnas included in museum • Won Grammy for music video in 2002, then voted “Greatest Video of All Time” by the Music Express in 2011 • Images of Jesus, allusions to the crown of thorns and sacrificial blood (pouring out the wine), tribute to his wife June Carter Cash who is actually in the video – presence says she is still here. Nostalgia – an old wound that won’t heal, he looks back on his life filled with fame, glory and riches yet so much pain that can’t go away “I try to put it all away but I remember everything”. Fruit on the table and wine drawing from paintings of the Renaissance period, art that was about life and God’s presence in the material world through abundance and the decay of material reality. Seems prophetic or biographical, he dies a couple years later and the video reflects on his life and past experiences. • • What is Christianity? • Scholarly construct: 2 images of Christ, one in a museum the other commercially commissioned and still under copyright. Saulman?’s Jesus is not suffering, he is resigned, no cross or intonation of the crucifixion – the other holding the cross, crown of thorns and halo, pain and suffering. The quintessential American Jesus is ubiquitous, created during the Second World War and placed everywhere, mass produced and consumed, commodity which many Americans/Canadians will say what Jesus looked like – represents American Christianity, this scholarly construct, a curious mix in North America of religious eclecticism, deep sense of personalism or individualism, American ideals (personal liberty) and often expressed in and influenced by popular culture. • The central tenant of American Christianity is that “God loves me” meaning God has a personal love for each and every Christian, and each and every Christian has a personal relationship with this God. • American Christianity – Jesus laughs image, loves expansively, non- judgmentally, unendingly as well as figurine of Jesus playing soccer with children. American Christianity is a scholarly construct, it is a trend within the North American context which we can meaningfully study, rather than what American Christianity believes we look at what American Christianity does by looking at the shaping, production, and perception of popular culture. • • What is popular culture? • Six definitions: (preview for next week’s reading) • Quantitative – popular culture because its popular, lots of people partake of it, in this sense both Hurt and Scared Kitty both qualify under quantitative definition of pop culture • Problem: no agreement on what counts for popular, what is the cut-off between popular culture and just culture that is popular. Is everything that’s popular, popular culture? Or is there a distinction between the two • Qualitative – popular culture because its not elite culture, different quality of culture. Hurt is obviously of higher culture than Scared Kitty yet it is not a opera etc. but now its in the Museum of Modern Art so is it pop culture or has it been transformed by the culture elites • Problem: What happens when taste changes? Back in Mozart’s day, operas were just things to do on a Tuesday night, now you have to dress nicely, on Saturday night etc. so what WAS popular has now become elite. Things change and don’t last over time • Synonym for mass culture – mass culture which are cultural items created for the people, commodities created by large corporations in the age of mass communication and that are disseminated in the hopes of controlling the masses through their consumption of these goods. Mass culture arose in early 20 th century among neo-Marxist thinkers and relevant in post–Second World War period when commodities were created from above to help shape the people below. • Problem: Hurt was made by a corporation in hopes of selling records so Hurt could be part of mass culture as defined, but Scared Kitty hardly qualifies (youtube video of the tickled cat) and yet it is more popular than Hurt. • “For the people” – made by the people, for the people and clearly Scared Kitty is by the people but who are the people? What if the people who made this video worked for Viacom, this definition would also eliminate Hurt from pop culture • Mixed culture of resistance – cultural theorist of Antonio Gramsci who argues that popular culture (writing in prewar period) contains both top down and bottom up elements that mix together which is useful, but what defined popular culture is not where it comes from or the product but the use of the product. Popular culture is popular because it is a form of resistance to what he called a cultural hegemony, dominant culture that as the mass culture definition seeks to impose lenses through which all people are supposed to see the world – brainwashing. Gramsci says it can be mass culture, can be for or from the people but most important when it is challenging cultural hegemony. • Problem: Scared Kitty? Not a resistance to cultural hegemony, Hurt might subvert many of the expectations of our culture like seeking wealth, youth and eschewing suffering • There is no such thing – there is no way to distinguish popular culture from culture, North American culture is so indebted to popular culture that there is no way to talk about one without the other. Popular culture cannot be separated, it has become our culture • • Parker’s definition is unauthorized culture – authorized by use and reception • • Taking artifacts and looking at them trough multiple lenses, in a sense using all of these definitions to study popular culture. Production, the product and the use or reception is how YOU will be studying an artifact in your essay, not to simply be read. How has this artifact come to be, who produced this and how, the product itself and how it is read and then how it is used and perceived. • Watched Kanye West – Jesus Walks (missed it cause I was reading Alley’s essay) • • Brief history of Christianity and Pop Culture • Go back 2000 years when Christianity was born, into the Roman Empire which was a vast political, social, cultural entity • Popular culture in Celtic practices of pre-Christian Roman contexts, many festivals and funeral games which were the origin
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