The Trash Phenomenon: Contemporary Literature, Popular Culture, and the Making of the American Century

Overview


The Trash Phenomenon looks at how writers of the late twentieth century not only have integrated the events, artifacts, and theories of popular culture into their works but also have used those works as windows into popular culture's role in the process of nation building. Taking her cue from Donald Barthelme's 1967 portrayal of popular culture as "trash" and Don DeLillo's 1997 description of it as a subversive "people's history," Stacey Olster explores how literature recycles American popular culture so as to ...
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Overview


The Trash Phenomenon looks at how writers of the late twentieth century not only have integrated the events, artifacts, and theories of popular culture into their works but also have used those works as windows into popular culture's role in the process of nation building. Taking her cue from Donald Barthelme's 1967 portrayal of popular culture as "trash" and Don DeLillo's 1997 description of it as a subversive "people's history," Stacey Olster explores how literature recycles American popular culture so as to change the nationalistic imperative behind its inception.

The Trash Phenomenon begins with a look at the mass media's role in the United States' emergence as the twentieth century's dominant power. Olster discusses the works of three authors who collectively span the century bounded by the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Persian Gulf War (1991): Gore Vidal's American Chronicle series, John Updike's Rabbit tetralogy, and Larry Beinhart's American Hero. Olster then turns her attention to three non-American writers whose works explore the imperial sway of American popular culture on their nation's value systems: hierarchical class structure in Dennis Potter's England, Peronism in Manuel Puig's Argentina, and Nihonjinron consensus in Haruki Murakami's Japan.

Finally, Olster returns to American literature to look at the contemporary media spectacle and the representative figure as potential sources of national consolidation after November 1963. Olster first focuses on autobiographical, historical, and fictional accounts of three spectacles in which the formulae of popular culture are shown to bypass differences of class, gender, and race: the John F. Kennedy assassination, the Scarsdale Diet Doctor murder, and the O. J. Simpson trial. She concludes with some thoughts about the nature of American consolidation after 9/11.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"To do scholarship of this kind demands a wide knowledge of historical factors, but also an ability to maintain a focus on the artwork so that readers may understand just how it functions in the larger process of society. In The Trash Phenomenon Stacey Olster does this brilliantly."--Jerome Klinkowitz, Professor of English and University Distinguished Scholar, University of Northern Iowa

"The author does not analyze American popular culture, but illuminates how it infiltrated all areas of U.S. psyche and society psyche, and becoming a global phenomenon, was assimilated by persons of other cultures.”--University Press Book Reviews

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820325217
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2003
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.81 (d)

Meet the Author


Stacey Olster is a professor of English at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She is the author of Reminiscence and Re-creation in Contemporary American Fiction.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction 1
1 Vidal's Empire Strikes Back: Hearst, Hollywood, and the Invention of American Hegemony 21
2 Rabbit Rerun: Updike's End of an American Epoch 43
3 Cut and Print!: The Gulf War as Movie Narrative in Larry Beinhart's American Hero 63
4 Dennis Potter, Pennies from Heaven, and the Dream of a Common Culture 81
5 Flotsam and Peronism in the Novels of Manuel Puig 102
6 Murakami Haruki's Garbage-Collecting/Snow-Shoveling Consortium 122
7 A Mother (and a son, and a brother, and a wife, et al.) in History: Stories Galore in Libra and the Warren Commission Report 147
8 "Two People Who Didn't Argue, Even, Except over the Use of the Subjunctive": Jean Harris, the Scarsdale Diet Doctor Murder, and Diana Trilling 166
9 Your Trash Ain't Nothin' but Cash: Lawrence Schiller, O. J. Simpson, and the Trial (which one?) of the Century (again?) 182
Conclusion 202
Notes 215
Works Cited 249
Index 283
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