Thursday, April 28, 2011

Rosenberg and White - Mass Culture

Rosenberg, Bernard, and David Manning White. Mass Culture; The Popular Arts in America. Glencoe, Ill: Free Press, 1957.

This book of essays from 1957 is interesting to me because of how it reveals the state of popular cultural studies in the 50s. Rosenberg's intro essay notes three different groups: Radicals (like Dwight Macdonald and, I think, TW Adorno), arch conservatives (TS Eliot), and moderate liberals (Gilbert Seldes and David Riesman). The Radicals loathe popular culture because of the nefarious messages it promotes to uphold the dominant power. Arch conservatives see popular culture as "low." Moderate liberals dispute the conservative distinction of low and high, and argue that popular culture is more of an output from and value for the people than radicals might admit.

Dwight MacDonald - "Argues that mass culture constitutes a grave, unremiting threat to High Cultue, as well as Folk Art. HE sees mass culture as imposed from above, finally reaching out to engulf even the lords of 'kitsch'."

Gilbert Seldes - Not uncritical, but "takes issue with those who blanketly damn them"

Robert Warshow - On comic books. Views them as a concerned parent, but lets his child speak for the comics to try to understand that perspective.

Siegfried Kracauer - Essay on national types in Hollywood, and how this perpetuates stereotypes of foreigners. This would concern his sense of the nature of film being to present realism because this power could be used damagingly.

T.W. Adorno - Television "transforms modern mass culture into a medium of undreamed of psychological control." Modern mass culture adheres to the ideology of middle-class society.

Marshall McCluhan - Taking a typically broad view and comparing different media, McCluhan wonders if America has been too hypnotized by book culture to the extent that we cannot regard the new media as serious.

Gilbert Seldes - Questions whether degredation is inevitable when the public arts popularize the classic arts. "The fundamental values of our lives and those of our children will be affected by the revolutionary change in entertainment and communications; we have an obligation to control the speed and direction of this change."

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