Reading the Beatles: Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism, and the Fab Four

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Albany, NY 2006 Trade paperback Fair. Trade paperback (US). Glued binding. 249 p.

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Addresses the band’s resounding impact on how we think about gender, popular culture, and the formal and poetic qualities of music.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While John, Paul, George and Ringo have been (deservedly) deconstructed more than any other rock band, and an academic look at them is welcome, many of the observations made in this collection will leave fans asking, "So what?" In the opening essay, Penn State English professor Ian Marshall carefully explores the band's lyrics. He points out the confessional poetics of Lennon songs like "Nowhere Man," but isn't original when he compares that tune's themes of self-doubt to Thoreau's "mass of men [who] lead lives of quiet desperation." A more intriguing assertion is Marshall's point that The White Album is a work of "post-modernity" that reflects the fracturing of the band's media image as four lovable mop-tops and a "rebuttal" to the earlier Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. Far more remarkable is William M. Northcutt's essay, which studies "death, loss, and the crowd" on Sgt. Pepper. Northcutt, who teaches cultural studies at Germany's University of Wuppertal, introduces the idea that the album's cover, with its famous portrait of the Beatles surrounded by cultural icons, reveals the band's distance from the crowd and its conflicted feelings toward fame. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780791467169
  • Publisher: State University of New York Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 8.90 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

At the Pennsylvania State University at Altoona, Kenneth Womack is Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Todd F. Davis is Associate Professor of English. Together they authored The Critical Response to John Irving and Formalist Criticism and Reader-Response Theory, and edited Mapping the Ethical Turn: A Reader in Ethics, Culture, and Literary Theory. Davis is also the author of Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade; or, How a Postmodern Harlequin Preached a New Kind of Humanism, also published by SUNY Press.

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Table of Contents


Introduction: “Dear Sir or Madam, Will You Read My Book?”
Kenneth Womack and Todd F. Davis

Part I
“Speaking words of wisdom”: The Beatles’ Poetics

1. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together”: Bakhtin and the Beatles
Ian Marshall

2. From “Craft” to “Art”: Formal Structure in the Music of the Beatles
John Covach

3. “Love, love, love”: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Selected Songs by the Beatles
Sheila Whiteley

4. Painting Their Room in a Colorful Way: The Beatles Exploration of Timbre
Walter Everett

Part II
“A splendid time is guaranteed for all”: Theorizing the Beatles

5. Mythology, Remythology, and Demythology: The Beatles on Film
Kenneth Womack and Todd F. Davis

6. Vacio Luminoso: “Tomorrow Never Knows” and the Coherence of the Impossible
Russell Reising

7. The Spectacle of Alienation: Death, Loss, and the Crowd in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
William M. Northcutt

8. We All Want to Change the World: Postmodern Politics and the Beatles’ White Album
Jeffrey Roessner

Part III
“We can work it out”: The Beatles and Culture

9. “The rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry”: The Beatles and Questions of Mass and High Culture
Paul Gleed

10. A Universal Childhood: Tourism, Pilgrimage, and the Beatles
Kevin McCarron

11. “Baby, You’re a Rich Man”: The Beatles, Ideology, and the Cultural Moment
James M. Decker

12. Spinning the Historical Record: Lennon, McCartney, and Museum Politics
John Kimsey

Afterword: I Want to Hold Your Hand
Jane Tompkins

List of Contributors

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