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Marcel Danesi

Pop culture emerged in the first decades of the twentieth century as a reaction to the restrictive social traditions of colonial America. It spread quickly and broadly throughout the bustling urban centers of the 1920s—an era when it formed a partnership with technology and the business world. This coalition gave pop culture its identity, allowing it to thrive and form alliances with artistic and literary movements. But pop culture may have run its course with the rise of meme culture. This publication revisits the social, psychic, and aesthetic roots of pop culture, suggesting that meme culture has fragmented its historical flow, thus threatening to bring about its demise.
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The expression “popular culture” alludes, essentially, to a form of culture that makes little, if any, categorical distinctions between “high or serious culture” and “low or entertainment culture,” making it historically a non-traditional form of culture. In the evolution of human cultures, popular culture stands out as atypical, since it takes cultural material from any source and revamps it according to the laws of the marketplace. In contrast to historical (traditional) culture, it rejects both the supremacy of tradition and of established cultural norms, as well as the pretensions of intellectualist tendencies within contemporary artistic cultures. Popular culture has always been highly appealing for this very reason, bestowing on common people the assurance that cultural trends are for everyone, not just for an elite class of artists and cognoscenti. It is thus populist, unpredictable, and highly ephemeral, reflecting the ever-changing tastes of one generation after another. Moreover, among the ephemeral trends and texts, there are some that have risen to the level of high art, hence the paradox and power of popular culture.

Brill Research Perspectives in Popular Culture is a peer-reviewed, hybrid journal and reference publication that features studies exploring all aspects of popular culture today, from its traditional platforms, audiences and traditional electronic media, to the contemporary digital media. Each issue comprises a single, uniquely focused short monograph that examines some particular aspect, text, or event that falls under the rubric of “pop culture,” including popular programs (sitcoms, adventure series, etc.); celebrities; fads; theories of the popular imagination; the relation of popular culture to other cultures; the role of memetic culture vis-à-vis traditional forms of culture; the nature of performance; the psychological, anthropological, and semiotic aspects of popular culture systems; and the like. In addition, studies will also look at specific frameworks for analyzing popular culture, such as archetype theory and carnival theory.

The intended audience of Brill Research Perspectives in Popular Culture is the network of scholars and instructors involved in popular culture studies and cognate disciplines (psychology, culture studies, literary criticism, anthropology, musicology, sociology, neuroscience, and art criticism).

Authors are cordially invited to submit proposals and/or full manuscripts by email to the publisher Jason Prevost. Please direct all other correspondence to Assistant Editor Jennifer Obdam.

No Access

Series:

Marcel Danesi

Abstract

Pop culture, as a distinct form of culture with its own historical, artistic and textual categories, crystallized in the first decades of the twentieth century as a reaction to the restrictive social traditions of colonial America. It spread quickly and broadly throughout the bustling urban centers of the 1920s—an era when it formed a partnership with technology and the business world. This coalition gave pop culture its identity, allowing it to thrive and form alliances with artistic and literary movements. But pop culture may have run its course with the rise of meme culture—a culture that has evolved on the Internet. This essay revisits the social, psychic, and aesthetic roots of pop culture, suggesting that meme culture has fragmented its historical flow, thus threatening to bring about its demise.

No Access

Marcel Danesi

Abstract

Pop culture, as a distinct form of culture with its own historical, artistic and textual categories, crystallized in the first decades of the twentieth century as a reaction to the restrictive social traditions of colonial America. It spread quickly and broadly throughout the bustling urban centers of the 1920s—an era when it formed a partnership with technology and the business world. This coalition gave pop culture its identity, allowing it to thrive and form alliances with artistic and literary movements. But pop culture may have run its course with the rise of meme culture—a culture that has evolved on the Internet. This essay revisits the social, psychic, and aesthetic roots of pop culture, suggesting that meme culture has fragmented its historical flow, thus threatening to bring about its demise.