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Department
English
Course
English 2017
Professor
Prof
Semester
Fall

Description
English Midterm: Defining the Field: “Popular,” “Folk” & “Mass” Culture A few keywords: “culture” “ideology” “popular” “mass” “folk” When you hear the phrase “Popular Culture” you think about . . . Popular forms:  Music  Film (Hollywood)  TV shows  Famous people  Magazines  Social media  Fashion  Advertisements  Books  Mass media  Something that appeals to most of the population  Popular trends; the latest craze  Something entertaining, fun  Today’s world we live in – interesting Culture  one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language” (Raymond Williams)  Williams offers three broad definitions . . .  A general process of intellectual, spiritual and aesthetic development • E.g., “Western culture”  A particular way of life, whether of a people, a period or a group • holidays, sport, religious festivals, distinctive cuisine, &c. • The sum total of a group’s social activities 3. Works and practices of intellectual and especially artistic activity Ideology  Ideology as a systematic body of ideas articulated by particular groups of people o Eg. “right-” or “leftwing” ideology  Ideology as False consciousness (the classic Marxist definition o Ideology as a distorting lens through which we view the world o Ideological cultural products implicitly or explicitly support the interests of dominant groups Ideological Forms  Culture as a site of contest between dominant and subordinate groups, ideas o The example of “Blaxploitation” cinema o “Art is never without consequences” (Bertholt Brecht) Popular forms don’t just reflect the world, they also help create it  Pop culture and norm production o e.g., fashion, social etiquette  Pop culture and identity formation Ideology as Material Practice  Not just a body of ideas, but woven into the very practices of everyday life o e.g., the university classroom Popular Culture  Latin “populus”: “people”  Williams’s four definitions . . .  “Well liked by many” o Purely quantitative criterion  That which is not ‘high’ culture 3. Mass culture o Work deliberately produced by a “culture industry” for mass consumption o Formulaic products to manipulate passive audiences 4. Folk Culture o Culture for and by “the people” – Local, hand-made The Idea of “Folk Culture”  A product of later 18th and 19th centuries  A response to effects of industrialization & urbanization  The collection & study of “folklore”: ballads, folk tales, folk songs  Movement closely bound to emerging European nationalisms  Folk culture” as other people’s culture  The idealized “peasant” of old vs. the despised modern “rabble”  Rural folk as preservers of a culture they didn’t appreciate or understand Romanticism vs. Modernity  Romanticism as another, related response to industrialization, urbanization o Wordsworth’s Preface to Lyrical Ballads (first included in 1802 ed.) Folk Culture vs. Degraded Modernity “. . . when the heavens have unleashed a storm, or when some other natural disaster has battered down a whole harvest, we may well find that in some sheltered corner by the roadside, under hedges and shrubs, a few ears of corn have survived . . . .”(The Brothers Grimm, Preface to the First Edition of Kinderund Hausmärchen, 1812) The Notion of “Mass Culture” Folk • Handmade (individually crafted) • Direct, unmediated communication • Authentic originals • Small, exclusive audience – you have to be there Mass • Machine made (mass production) • Mediated communication • Copies, not originals (lack of authenticity) • Large, inclusive audience The Printing Press & the Reformation • Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses (1517) translated into German in 1518, printed and widely circulated • “Either the pope must abolish printing, or the printing press must at length root him out” (English Reformer John Foxe) • Index of Prohibited Books (Index Librorum Prohibitorum) established in 1559 The age of electricity  Brixton’s Electric Avenue ca. 1920: England’s first electrically-lit street was built in the late 1880s  Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) was inspired by the manufacturing practices of Ford.  Long-distance communications became ever faster after the arrival of electricity: the telegraph (1830s, patented by Samuel Morse in 1847) and the telephone (patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876)  The first motion pictures were screened in the 1890s: poster advertising a Lumière Programme in Paris, 1895; screen capture from Georges Méliès’s early narrative film A Trip to the Moon (1902). "Culture and Civilization and Culturalism" The Culture and Civilization tradition: Matthew Arnold:  Poet, scholar and critic  Important role played in articulating theories of culture that were hostile Q.D Leavis and F.R Leavis  Impact on in which literature gets taught and thought of in university Cultural Studies: A Dissenting View: Harold Bloom:  is an American literary critic and is a sterling professor of humanities at Yale University  Since the publication of his first book in 1959, Bloom has written more than 20 books of literary criticism, several books discussing religion, and one novel. He has edited hundreds of anthologies  The literary "Canon" o A general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged o Being not sufficiently accurate o Represents those few works that are selected out of a large number of other books that are seen as valued where the other books are not Popular(Mass) Culture's Others: High culture: Matthew Arnold (1822-1888):  Culture and Anarchy (1867-1869)  The "Hyde Park Rough", 1866  Arnold's definition of culture: o A pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know the best which has been thought and said in the world o To maintain social order Leavisism:  F.R Leavis(1895-1978) and Q.D Leavis (1906-1981)  The Leavistite journal, Scrutiny (1932-1953)  Giants of literary criticism  Aim to recognize and celebrate the best: o Evaluative criticism  Good from bad  Moral significance of great literature  All important minority The notion of 'Mass Civilization': The 1930's context:  Impact of mass production  Notion of mass culture  Mass society, the masses The threat of Populism  "Revolution against taste once begun will land us in irreparable chaos" Mass Culture in America: Post-war debate:  Dwight Macdonald  I love Lucy Culturalism:  Richard Hoggart  Raymond Williams  Stuart Hall Characterizing Culturalism:  Mass audiences are manipulated, passive  Prey to mass companies  'Pursuit of Structures of Feeling', William's term: o Actual sense  Left Leavisism: o There are other things more important then others o Open to the possibilities of other culture being better Raymond Williams:  In The Long Revolution (1961), Williams identifies three general types of definitions: 1. Ideal o culture as “state or process of human perfection” o culture transcends particular historical moments, places – e.g., “the best which has been thought and said . . .” (Arnold) – e.g., “the human spirit,” “the human condition” 2. Documentary o Culture as “the body of intellectual and imaginative work, in which . . . human thought and experience are variously recorded” i.e., “the best” AND THE REST  3. Social o Culture as “a description of a particular way of life” o “expresses . . . meanings and values not only in art and learning but also in institutions and ordinary behaviour” The “Birmingham School”: Hoggart & Hall • The Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (est. 1964) • Leavisite inheritance – “Left Leavisism” – Working both within and against Leavisite tradition Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy (1957) • Subtitle: “Aspects of Working-Class Life With Special Reference to Publications and Entertainments” 1. “An Older Order”: “The Full Rich Life” of the 1930s • world of RH’s own childhood o personal (nostalgic) account • Communal & self produced workingc lass culture o Example: the “chara’trip to the seaside 2. “Yielding Place to the New”: Cultural decline of the 1950s • Manipulative “Newer Mass Art” (“shiny barbarism”) • Leavisite concern over reading habits • “The Juke-Box Boys” “Teddy Boys” (“Teds,” “Edwardians”) • Early youth subculture o Arrival of the “teenager” o Emergence of Rock music • Hoggart’s view: a harbinger of cultural decline (“dissipation, “spiritual dry-rot”) • Americanized (not homegrown, self-created) • “hedonistic but passive barbarian” Hoggart & the Leavises: Common Ground • Shared concern with brutalizing effects of mass culture • Comparable construction of historical dichotomy (old/new orders) o Similar narrative of cultural decline • Shared emphasis on evaluation and discrimination Hoggart & the Leavises: How they Differ • RH’s attachment to “traditional” workingclass culture • his “golden age” is the 1930s (the Leavises’ dark age) • working-class audiences not simply a passive“mass” to RH Hoggart’s Tentative Approach Toward Popular Culture • Limited consideration of contemporary popular texts and practices – Some examples considered in detail • HOWEVER . . . o Arm’s-length approach o invents examples of popular fiction o never speaks with “juke box boys” Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel The Popular Audience (1964) • Also working within and against Leavisite tradition • Questioning the assumptions of the critics of “mass culture” • Teenagers may not be merely passive receptacles Hall and Whannel’s Cultural Hierarchy HIGH CULTURE (BEST) --> THE POPULAR ARTS (“Good” or acceptable Popular Culture) --> (The rest of) POPULAR CULTURE (WORST) “The Popular Arts” • Leavisite approach, but on new terrain o still want to distinguish good from bad o now focus is on good or bad POPULAR CULTURE o "'Good” examples: Jazz, Blues Karl Marx Karl Marx (1818-1883) • “Ideology” – “false consciousness” – how we imagine our world and our place in it • History as Class struggle: – Slaves & Masters (Slave cultures) – Peasants & Lords (Feudalism) – Proletariat & Bourgeoisie (Capitalism) The Matrix as Ideology  The Matrix: “a computer generated dream-world” The “Frankfurt School” Institute of Social Research (Frankfurt), est. 1923 • Marxist intellectuals • Context: o aftermath of Great War (1914-18) o Rise of Communism, Fascism • Rise of Nazism o Wartime American interlude (to 1949) Adorno & Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry” (1944) • “Enlightenment as Mass Deception” (essay’s subtitle) • Adorno & Horkheimer’s concerns: o Standardization o Passivity of audiences o Hollywood’s seductive realism • Lowenthal: “a false fulfilment of wish dreams” • Marcuse: audiences indoctrinated, manipulated by “irresistible output Adorno, “On Popular Music” (1941) • Standardisation o Contrasted with the “organic unity” of “serious” music o Concealed via “pseudoindividualisation” • Popular music promotes “passive listening” o and operates as “social cement” Louis Althusser • “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” (1971) o Repressive State Apparat
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