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Blackwell Manifestos #28: The Myth of Popular Culture: From Dante to Dylanby Perry. Meisel
Synopses & Reviews
In this fascinating examination of popular culture, esteemed cultural critic Perry Meisel shatters conventionally held notions about the division between “high” and “low” culture with the provocative theory that popular culture has sustained dialectical rhythms. Meisel’s deft critical analysis of three enduring cultural traditions – the American novel, Hollywood, and British and American rock music – leads us to question the very concept of the division between “high” and “low” culture.
Meisel begins his engaging discussion by refuting philosopher Theodor Adorno's assertion that “high” culture is “dialectical” and “pop” is not, showing that popular culture does indeed have a conversation both with its sources and with cultural authority as a whole. In the final section, Meisel turns his attention to Bob Dylan, a figure who, more than any other, shows what it means to synthesize and revise all traditions – music, poetry, iconography – and transform them completely.
Brilliantly conceived and clearly articulated, The Myth of Popular Culture from Dante to Dylan redefines the way in which we think about all forms of artistic expression.
Book News Annotation:
The myth is that there is a distinction between high and low culture, and Meisel (English, New York U.) sets out to dispel it, particularly Adorno's contention that popular culture is not dialectic. His case studies are the American novel, Hollywood movies, and American rock music. Among specific topics are Johnson and the long 18th century, Andy Warhol, American fiction from Cooper to Chandler, Harlow and Monroe, the blues misreading gospel, and Buddy Holly and the British invasion. Bob Dylan gets a whole section to himself, with chapters on such aspects as he and his critics, words and music, himself, and his relation to Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley. Annotation ©2010 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
The Myth of Popular Culture from Dante to Dylan is a fascinating examination of the cultural traditions of the American novel, Hollywood, and British and American rock music which leads us to redefine our concept of the division between "high" and "low" culture.
About the Author
Perry Meisel is Professor of English at New York University. His books include The Myth of the Modern (1987), The Cowboy and the Dandy (1999), and The Literary Freud (2007). He has also written widely for publications that include The Village Voice, The New York Times, Partisan Review, and October.
Table of Contents
Preface: The Resistance to Pop
Part I "The Battle of the Brows"
1. A History of High and Low
"Highbrow," "Lowbrow," "Middlebrow"
"Folk" and "Soul"
"General Converse": Johnson and the Long Eighteenth Century
"Similitude in Dissimilitude"
Keats and Mediocrity
Culture and Anarchy in the UK
"The Battle of the Brows"
The Myth of Popular Culture
2. Pop Culture in the Spectator
Poems of the People
Canons and "Camp"
Base and Superstructure, Soma and Psyche
3. Pop and Postmodernism
The Social Self
"Hey, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair"
Part II Dialectics of Pop
4. The Death of Kings: American Fiction from Cooper to Chandler
"Paleface" and "Redskin," Cowboy and Dandy
Pathfinding: Cooper and Mark Twain
Labor, Leisure, Love: Melville, James, Hemingway
Transatlantic: Raymond Chandler
5. Knock on Any Door: Three Histories of Hollywood
Ars Gratia Artis
Benjamin, Bazin, Eisenstein
Dialectics of Directing: Hawks, Welles, Scorsese
Dialectics of Acting: Barrymore, Bogart, Brando
Blonde on Blonde: Harlow and Monroe
Hang ’Em High: Welles, Lewis, Eastwood
6. The Blues Misreading of Gospel: A History of Rock and Roll
A Scandal in Bohemia
Jazz Myth, Jazz Reality
Buddy Holly and the British Invasion
The Body English
Part III The World of Bob Dylan
7. Dylan and the Critics
The Limits of Typology
Dylan as Poet
8. Words and Music
"Slippin’ and Slidin’"
Dylan and Deferred Action
9. Dylan Himself
The Death of the Author
The Grand Tour and the Middle Passage
10. The Three Icons: Sinatra, Presley, Dylan
Iconography and Gender
The Fedora as Phallus
Elvis as Bobbysoxer
"My Darling Young One"
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