The Triumph of Vulgarity: Rock Music in the Mirror of Romanticism

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The Triumph of Vulgarity in a thinker's guide to rock 'n' roll. Rock music mirrors the tradition of nineteenth-century Romaniticsm, Robert Patison says. Whitman's "barbaric yawp" can still be heard in the punk rock of the Ramones, and the spirit that inspired Poe's Eureka lives on in the lyrics of Talking Heads. Rock is vulgar, Pattison notes, and vulgarity is something that high culture has long despised but rarely bothered to define. This book is the first effort since John Ruskin and Aldous Huxley to describe in depth what vulgarity is, and how, with the help of ideas inherent in Romaniticism, it has slipped the constraints imposed on it by refined culture and established its own loud arts.
The book disassembles the various myths of rock: its roots in black and folk music; the primacy it accords to feeling and self; the sexual omnipotence of rock stars; the satanic predilictions of rock fans; and rock's high-voltage image of the modern Prometheus wielding an electric guitar. Pattison treats these myths as vulgar counterparts of their originals in refined Romantic art and offers a description and justification of rock's central place in the social and aesthetic structure of modern culture. At a time when rock lyrics have provoked parental outrage and senatorial hearings, The Triumph of Vulgarity is required reading for anyone interested in where rock comes from and how it works.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is the most brilliant study yet written of the modern phenomenon of rock music."—National Review

"An articulate elucidation of rock 'n' roll as the heir apparent to 19th-century romantic pantheism.... Makes a convincing case for rock as the central aesthetic manifestation of our culture.... Pattison writes amusingly and his rock 'n' roll fever is infectious."—Kirkus Reviews. "A provocative, opinionated study about the origins of rock and about rock as an idea."—Library Journal

Library Journal
s a provocative, opinionated study about the origins of rock and about rock as an idea. The author sees rock as grounded in the ideology of the American Revolution and as an extension of 19th-century Romanticism. He finds rock foreshadowed in Shelley and in the pantheism of Whitman. At the same time, he dwells on the vulgarity of rock (and youth, democracy, and popular culture), though he admits rock brings intense pleasure to many. He considers rock devoid of logic and perceives the lyrics as ``trite, obscene, and idiotic.'' Nevertheless he has produced a logical critical study, which, for all its paradoxes, many will find valid and stimulating. Recommended for academic collections. Daniel J. Lombardo, Jones Lib., Inc. Amherst, Mass.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195038767
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/1987
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 294
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Pattison teaches humanities at Long Island University. His previous books include On Literacy and Tennyson and Tradition.

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