Jan 31: Culture

On pages 59-70 of The Theory Toolbox, there is a discussion about the differences between high culture and popular culture. After reading this section, do you think the authors find one culture more valuable than the other? How do they define the cultural differences and what are the benefits of studying both of them? Which culture do you believe you are more influenced by and why?

6 thoughts on “Jan 31: Culture

  1. I think the author values both in different ways. Popular culture teaches us how to be subjects, or how to be certain types of subjects, and it’s important to study the effects of the industry (p.69). High culture is important because it’s intellectually stimulating, and edifying. Cultures differentiate between high and popular culture in ways like: good vs bad art, intellectual vs irrelevant, bland vs fun, etc. I think I’m probably influenced more by popular culture more, even though I don’t realize it day to day. I just think this because it’s the culture I am exposed to everyday. However, I would say that I am more deeply effected by high culture, when I am exposed to it, then I am from popular culture.

  2. This chapter is an argument I have with someone every week. I feel like the argument the writers of this book is that each are arbitrary categories that are in a constant conversation with each other. It’s the bit that the high culture today was the pop culture of a hundred or two years ago. It’s too easy to forget that “classical music” that mothers play for their unborn babies in the nineteenth century was just “music”. Hell, Mozart was basically the Justin beiber of his day and it’s kind of funny how unironicly that comparison can be made. Personally, I’m influenced by pop culture more, but I’m most interested in how things considered pop culture draw inspiration from older works now deemed to be in the realm of high culture

  3. On pages 59-70 of The Theory Toolbox, there is a discussion about the differences between high culture and popular culture. After reading this section, do you think the authors find one culture more valuable than the other? How do they define the cultural differences and what are the benefits of studying both of them? Which culture do you believe you are more influenced by and why?

    I don’t believe that the authors/writers of this book find one to be more valuable than the other. They posit arguments, predominately from the side of “high culture,” that assert that high art is “better for you” like “bran” instead of “candy and cigarettes.” Arguments such as Blooms assertion that pop culture is “prepackaged masturbational fantasy,” at first glance paint pop culture as nothing but trash. This is argued against, though, by the authors. The say that from pop culture, one can learn how we are subject to manipulation by media. Pop culture affects our “subjectivity.” I personally believe that both forms are valuable to analyze, perhaps not for their content itself, but by studying how they approach the dissemination of said material. On a day to day basis, I consume much more popular culture, but make a concerted effort to consume “high art” as a means to understand further references. This is like reading the canon of English and American Literature in order to understand the archetypes and tropes of popular culture. Both are key to study and analyze, but through sheer amount and exposure, I am more immediately affected by popular culture.

  4. From the discussion of “high culture vs “low culture” in the “Theory Toolbox” on pages 59-70 I think that the authors value high culture more than low culture. Despite the authors’ critique of Bloom’s “The Closing of the American Mind” on pages 64-5, I think that overall the idea of “transcendental” qualities in culture relates to the preference of “high” culture and “art”. The authors state,”As we’ve seen throughout this text, there are all sorts of problems with this kind of idea. First of all, any supposedly transcendental categories (virtue, wisdom, genius, etc.) are themselves are already social constructs…grow out of a particular context just as surely as “The Simpsons” do..Meaning is a process of social contextualization” (65). For high art the authors argue there is nothing that automatically makes a text superior as far as meaning is concerned, but I think that it is important to note the ways that the “Theory Toolbox” has shown the importance of authority, theory, and subjectivity through these topics relation to context. Even though the authors denounce a “transcendental” quality within high culture, I think the ability of certain works of art to be recognized in various contexts and cultures is a major accomplishment of something that is considered to be high culture. In relation to low culture, or more popularized culture, things that are considered to be high culture can also be popularized between different cultures. The text uses the example of the Simpsons often as low culture, and for example something like Romeo and Juliet could be considered high culture. Despite the culture difference both are well known, but one is more regarded among scholars. High culture may teach someone the skill of analysis, but low culture teaches qualities like comedy and love is an interesting and straight-forward way. Personally, I am more influenced by low culture because I am drawn to what is considered “popular” culture; most of the references that I laugh at or notice in the book are related to 21st century media.

  5. From reading this chapter, I don’t gather that the author favors either one of them specifically; in many cases, they seem to simply provide examples of either side, with high culture being compared to “good art” or even metaphorically compared to “a long engagement leading up to an arranged marriage” and low culture being compared to “a lost weekend of anything-goes debauchery” (p. 64). The author does, however, point out the fact that to define high art is presumptuous in some ways, as it is to “presuppose that the person or group making the distinction can somehow tell the difference… between the best and the worst.” (p 60) I agree with this and wish, in fact, that they had expanded upon it more; I think it’s unfair of any one person or group to imagine that they have the right to define what constitutes good or bad art for an individual. I certainly think that I have been influenced in many ways by what is classically considered high culture through my education and by my own choice. I would say that I have been influenced more by popular culture since it is more a part of my daily life, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. In many cases, I have found more meaning in popular culture than I have from high culture. For example, I am currently reading Ulysses, and it has been a thoroughly unenjoyable experience for me; although it’s lauded as a great novel and would be placed amongst the classics, it is utterly uninspiring to me. I have experienced this with several other classics I have read. On the other hand, I have truly enjoyed and gained meaning from books that would be considered popular culture, including novels by Stephen King or other science fiction stories that are not considered to be a part of the canon. That’s not to say I never enjoy high culture, but I do think we should stop being so patronizing of things simply because they’re popular. Oftentimes, things are popular because they are good, and we shouldn’t avoid things simply because they’re mainstream. Everyone is entitled to find value in the things that are meaningful to them, and I wish the chapter had touched on that a little bit more.

  6. I don’t really think the author values one more than the other because they give good examples of how both can be useful when it comes to appreciating culture. For example, when referencing pop culture on page 68 the author states that, “…; It teaches us how to have fun, how we should be ad, how to be in love, what kind of body we should have, what we should be excited by, and what should bore us.” I do however feel like pop culture can sometimes get in the way of being more of an individual rather than just relying on the mainstream media to tell you what you should and should do. The author then goes to explain how the basics of differentiating between high culture and pop culture are simply what is considered “good art” and “bad art”. Although this differs from culture to culture, I don’t feel as if there is a true difference between the two when it comes to how you perceive and study them. I tend to really focus on pop culture instead of high culture a lot of the time. I’m not sure if it is because of my age or what I find important, I just seem to think that, personally, it is more interesting. I do however try to at least know a little about high culture and what you can get out of studying it.

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