American Studies 2001: Introduction to American Studies

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Unit IV: Taste

Key Concepts: Mass Culture, Cool, Middlebrow, Kitsch, Hegemony, Authenticity, Cultural Capital

Monday, October 16

Topic: Classifying Culture

Assignment:  Lawrence Levine, “The Sacralization of Culture” (1990) from Highbrow/Lowbrow; Advertisement, “Are We a Nation of Low Brows?” from The New Republic (1922); Russell Lynes, “Highbrow, Lowbrow, Middlebrow” (1949; 1976); chart from Life magazine here and here.

Begin reading Carl Wilson, Let’s Talk About Love.

Wednesday, October 18

Topic: Critics of Mass Culture

Assignment: Clement Greenberg, “The Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” (1939); Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1935).

Continue reading Carl Wilson, Let’s Talk About Love. 

Monday, October 23

Topic:  Cool in Postwar America

Assignment: Joel Dinerstein, selections from The Origins of Cool in Postwar America; and photographs.

Continue reading Carl Wilson, Let’s Talk About Love.

Wednesday, October 25

Topic: Taste Cultures into the Present

Assignment:

Carl Wilson, Let’s Talk About Love: Why Other People Have Such Bad Taste (entire book).