Trash Culture: Popular Culture and the Great Tradition / Edition 1

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Overview


Seinfeld as a contemporary adaptation of Etherege's Restoration comedy of manners The Man of Mode?

Friends as a reworking of Shakespeare's romantic comedy Much Ado About Nothing?

Star Wars as an adaptation of Spenser's epic poem, The Faerie Queene?

The popular culture that surrounds us in our daily lives bears a striking similarity to some of the great works of literature of the past. In television, movies, magazines, and advertisements we are exposed to many of the same stories as those critics who study the great books of Western literature, but we have simply been encouraged to look at those stories differently.

In Trash Culture, Richard K. Simon examines the ways in which the great literature and cultural work of the past has been rewritten for today's consumer society, with supermarket tabloids such as The National Enquirer and celebrity gossip magazines like People serving as contemporary versions of the great dramatic tragedies of the past. Today's advertising repeats the tale of the Golden Age, but inverts the value system of a classic utopia; the shopping mall combines bits and pieces of the great garden styles of Western history, and now adds consumer goods; Playboy magazine revises Castiglione's Renaissance courtesy book, The Book of the Courtier; and Cosmopolitan magazine revises the women's coming-of-age novels of Jane Austen, Gustave Flaubert, and Edith Wharton.

Trash Culture concludes that the great books are alive and well, but simply hidden from the critics. It argues for the linking of high and low for the study and appreciation of each form of literature, and the importance of teaching popular culture alongside books of the great tradition in order to understand the critical context in which the books appear.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Simon (English and humanities, California Polytechnic State Univ.) here maintains that great literature and popular entertainment evoke "comparable experiences." Painstakingly detailing the structures and ideas shared by popular culture and great literature, he compares modern supermarket tabloid and gossip magazine tragedies to the great tragic literature; TV talk shows, sitcoms, and soap operas to the history of the theater; and Star Wars, Star Trek, and Vietnam War movies to The Faerie Queen, Gulliver's Travels, and Homer. Likewise, advertising, shopping malls, and Playboy, he suggests, fulfill historic needs in modern context. A controversial and optimistic view of both literature and popular works, Simon's argument is carefully thought out and surprisingly convincing. Recommended for literature and communication collections.--Gene Shaw, NYPL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780520222236
  • Publisher: University of California Press
  • Publication date: 11/23/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 199
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Richard K. Simon is Professor of English and Chair of Humanities at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. He is the author of The Labyrinth of the Comic: Theory and Practice from Fielding to Freud (1985).
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Trash and Literature 1
2 The Critical Context 14
Pt. 1 Case Studies
3 Star Wars and The Faerie Queene 29
4 The Trash Talk Show 38
5 Friends, Seinfeld, and Days of Our Lives 44
6 Tragedy, the Enquirer, and the Critics 58
Pt. 2 Values
7 Advertising and Utopia 77
8 The Shopping Mall and the Formal Garden 91
9 Playboy and The Book of the Courtier 101
10 Cosmopolitan and the Woman's Coming-of-Age Novel 117
Pt. 3 History
11 Star Trek, Gulliver's Travels, and the Problem of History 139
12 The Great Books in Vietnam 153
13 Matthew Arnold Meets Godzilla 175
Works Cited 179
Index 185
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