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I didnt believe it for a second, but tried to sound sincere. In it moved back to Germany. The old certainties of the cultural landscape suddenly seemed in doubt. The second part of his defence consists of cataloguing the extent to which high culture flourishes in America: However, the very existence of this problem makes it even more important that some of the media which are capable of communicating work of a serious and significant kind should remain open and available, and that the quality of popular work transmitted there should be of the highest order pos- sible, on its own terms
And I finally decided, if that were the case, I didnt mind. Almost a week had passed since my standoff with Vincent at the Caf Sainte-Lucie, and though I had made my reading sessions there a daily habit, I hadnt seen a trace of him or his friends.
I was ensconced in what I now considered my private corner table, finishing off yet another Wharton novel from the school syllabus my future English teacher was obviously a big fan , when I noticed a couple of teenagers sitting across the terrace from me.
The girl had short-cropped blond hair and a shy laugh, and the natural way she kept leaning in toward the boy next to her made me think they were a couple. But upon turning my scrutiny to him, I realized how similar their features were, though his hair was golden red. They had to be brother and sister.
And once that idea popped into my mind, I knew I was right. The girl suddenly held up her hand to stop her brother from talking and began scanning the terrace, as if searching for someone. Her eyes settled on me. For a second she hesitated, and then waved urgently at me. I pointed to myself with a questioning look. She nodded and then gestured, beckoning me to come over. Wondering what she could possibly want, I stood and slowly made my way toward their table. She rose to her feet, alarmed, and motioned for me to hurry.
Just as I left my safe little nook against the wall and stepped around my table, a huge crash came from behind me, and I was knocked flat onto the ground.
I could feel my knee stinging and lifted my head to see blood on the ground beneath my face. Mon Dieu! Tears of shock and pain welled in my eyes. He ripped a towel from his waist apron and dabbed my face with it. You just have a little cut on your eyebrow.
I looked down at my burning leg and saw that my jeans had been torn open and my knee completely skinned. As I checked myself over for injuries, it dawned on me that the terrace had gone completely silent. But instead of focusing on me, the astonished faces of the caf-goers were looking behind me.
The waiter stopped swabbing my eyebrow to glance over my shoulder, and his eyes widened in alarm. Following his gaze, I saw that my table had been demolished by a huge piece of carved masonry that had fallen from the buildings facade. My purse was lying to one side, but my copy of House of Mirth stuck out from where it was pinned under the enormous stone, exactly where I had been sitting.
If I hadnt moved, I would be dead, I thought, and my heart raced so fast that my chest hurt. I turned back to the table where the brother and sister had been sitting. Except for a bottle of Perrier and two full glasses sitting in the middle of a handful of change, it was empty.
My saviors were gone. Finally, after allowing the caf staff to use half their firstaid kit on me, I insisted that I could make it home on my own and wobbled back, my legs feeling like rubber bands. Mamie was coming out the front door as I arrived. Oh, my dear Katya! Then, scooping up our things and leading me back into the house, she tucked me into bed and insisted on treating me like I was a quadriplegic instead of her slightly scraped-up granddaughter.
Now, Katya, are you sure youre comfortable? I can bring you more pillows if you want. Mamie, Im fine, really. Does your knee still hurt? I can put something else on it.
Maybe it should be elevated. Mamie, they treated it with a million things from their firstaid box at the caf. Its just a scrape, really. Oh, my darling child. To think what could have happened. She pressed my head to her chest and petted my hair until something in me broke and I started crying. Mamie cooed and held me while I bawled. Im just crying because Im shaky, I protested through my tears, but the truth was that she was treating me just like my mom would have.
When Georgia got home, I heard Mamie telling her about my near-death experience. My door opened a minute later, and my sister raced in looking as white as a ghost. She sat silently on the edge of my bed, staring at me with wide eyes. Its okay, Georgia. Im just a little scraped up. Oh my God, Katie-Bean, if anything had happened to you You are all I have left. Remember that. Im fine. And nothings going to happen to me.
Ill keep far away from disintegrating buildings from now on. She forced a smile and reached out her hand to touch my own, but the haunted look stayed. The next day Mamie refused to let me leave the house, insisting that I relax and recover from my injuries. I obeyed, to humor her, and spent half the evening reading in the bathtub. It wasnt until I had lost myself in the warm water and a book that my nerves got the best of me, and I sat there trembling like a leaf.
I hadnt realized how scared the near miss with the crumbling building had left me until it took topping the tub up several times with scalding hot water to calm me down. Ultimately, I When I passed the caf the next day, it was closed, and the sidewalk outside the building was roped off with yellow plastic police tape. Workers in electric blue overalls were erecting scaffolding for builders to come stabilize the facade.
I would have to find another location for my al fresco reading. I felt a pang of disappointment as I realized that this was the only place that I had a chance of seeing my recent obsession. Who knew how long it would be before I ran into Vincent again? My mother began taking me to museums when I was a tiny child.
When we went to Paris, she and Mamie and I would set off in the morning for a little taste of beauty, as my mother called it. Georgia, who was bored by the time we reached the first painting, usually opted to stay behind with my father and grandfather, who sat in cafs and chatted with friends, business associates, and whoever else happened to wander by.
But together, Mamie, Mom, and I combed the museums and galleries of Paris. So it was no great shock when Georgia gave me a vague excuse of previous plans when I asked her to come museum trolling with me a few days later. Georgia, youve been complaining that I never do anything with you. This is a valid invite! Yeah, about as valid as me inviting you to a monster truck rally. Ask again if you plan on doing something actually interesting.
To show her goodwill, she gave my arm a friendly squeeze before shutting her bedroom door in my face. I set off alone to Le Marais, a neighborhood across town from my grandparents home. Weaving my way through its tiny medieval streets, I finally arrived at my destination: Besides the alternate universe offered by a book, the quiet space of a museum was my favorite place to go.
My mom said I was an escapist at heart Its true that Ive always been able to yank myself out of this world and plunge myself into another. And I felt ready for a calming session of art-hypnosis. As I walked through the gigantic doors of the Muse Picasso into its sterile white rooms, I felt my heart rate slow. I let the warmth and peace of the place cover me like a soft blanket.
And as was my habit, I walked until I found the first painting that really grabbed my attention, and sat down on a bench to face it. I let the colors absorb into my skin. The compositions convoluted, twisted shapes reminded me of how I felt inside, and my breathing slowed as I began zoning out. The other paintings in the room, the guard standing near the door, the fresh-paint smell in the air around me, even the passing tourists, faded into a gray background surrounding this one square of color and light.
I dont know how long I sat there before my mind slowly emerged from its self-imposed trance, and I heard low voices coming from behind me. Come over here. Just look at the colors.
Long pause. What colors? Its just as I told you. He goes from the bright, bold What a show-off! Pablo always had to be the best at everything he put his hand to, and as I was saying to Gaspard the other day, what really ticks me off is I turned, curious to see the origin of this fountain of knowledge, and froze. Standing just fifteen feet away from me was Vincents curly-haired friend. Now that I saw him straight on, I was struck by how attractive he was. There was something rugged about himunkempt, scruffy hair, bristly razor stubble, and large rough hands that gesticulated passionately toward the painting.
By the condition of his clothes, which were smudged with paint, I guessed he might be an artist. That came to me in a split second. Because after that, all I could see was the person standing with him. The raven-haired boy. The boy who had taken up permanent residence in the dark corners of my mind since the first moment I saw him. Why do you have to fall for the most improbable, inaccessible boy in Paris?
He was too beautifuland too aloofto ever really notice me. I tore my gaze away, leaned forward, and rested my forehead in my hands.
It didnt do any good. Vincents image was burned indelibly into my mind. I realized that whatever it was about him that made him seem a bit cold, almost dangerous, actually heightened my interest instead of scaring me off. What was wrong with me? I had never gone for bad boys beforethat was Georgias specialty! My But I didnt have the chance to put myself to the test. When I raised my head, they were gone.
I walked quickly to the entrance of the next room and peered in. It was empty. And then I just about jumped out of my skin as a low voice from behind me said, Hi, Kate.
Vincent loomed over me, his face a good six inches above mine. My hand flew to my chest in alarm. Thanks for the heart attack! I gasped. So is this a habit of yours, leaving your bag behind in order to strike up a conversation? He grinned and nodded at the bench where I had been sitting. Lying beneath it was my book bag.
Wouldnt it be easier to just walk up to a guy and say hello? The slight trace of mockery in his voice evaporated my nervousness. It was replaced by a fiery indignation that surprised us both. Hello, I growled, my throat tight with fury. Marching over to the bench, I picked up my bag and stalked out of the room.
I didnt mean it like that. What I meant I came to a stop and stared at him, waiting. Im sorry, he said, exhaling deeply. Ive never been known for my sparkling conversation.
Then why even make the effort? I challenged. YoureI dont knowamusing. I pronounced each syllable slowly and shot him My clenched fists rose automatically to rest on my hips. So, Vincent, did you come over with the express purpose of offending me, or is there something else you want? Vincent put his palm to his forehead. Listen, Im sorry. Im an idiot. Can we Start what over from scratch? I asked doubtfully. He hesitated for a second and then held out his hand. Im Vincent. I felt my eyes narrow as I weighed his sincerity.
I gripped his hand in mine, shaking it a bit rougher than I meant to. Im Kate. Nice to meet you, Kate, Vincent said, bemused. There was a four-second silence, during which I continued to glare at him. Do you come here often? I couldnt help but burst out laughing. He smiled, obviously relieved. Um, yes, actually. Ive kind of got a thing for museums, not just for Picasso. A thing? Vincents English was so good that it was easy to forget it wasnt his first language.
It means I like museums. A lot, I explained. Got it. You like museums but not Picasso in particular. I smiled at him, mentally giving him points for trying so hard. Whered your friend go? He took off. Jules doesnt really like to meet new people. So, are you British? American, I responded. And the girl Ive seen you around the neighborhood with would be your Sister, I said slowly. Have you been spying on me? Two cute girls move to the areawhat am I supposed to do? A wave of delight rippled through my body at his words.
So he thought I was cute. But he also thought Georgia was cute, I reminded myself. The wave disappeared. Hey, the museum caf has an espresso machine. Want to get some coffee while you tell me what other things youve got a thing for? He touched me on the arm. The wave was officially back. We sat at a tiny table in front of steaming cappuccinos. So, now that Ive revealed my name and nationality to a complete stranger, what else do you want to know? I asked, stirring the foam into my coffee.
Oh, I dont know I laughed. Um, shoe size ten, Breakfast at Tiffanys, absolutely no athletic ability whatsoever, and way too many embarrassing moments to list before the museum closes. Thats it? Thats all I get?
I felt my defensiveness melting away at this surprisingly charming and decidedly not-dangerous side of him. With Vincents encouragement I told him about my old life in Brooklyn, with Georgia and my parents. Of our summers in Paris, of my friends back home, with whom I had, by now, lost all contact. Of my boundless love for art, and my despair at discovering I possessed absolutely no talent for creating it.
He prodded me for more information, and I filled in the blanks for him on bands, food, film, books, and everything else under the sun. And unlike most boys my age I had known back home, he seemed genuinely interested in every detail. What I didnt tell him was that my parents were dead. I referred to them in the present tense and said that my sister and I had moved in with our grandparents to study in France. It wasnt a total lie.
But I didnt feel like telling him the whole truth. I didnt want his pity. I wanted to seem like just any other normal girl who hadnt spent the last seven months isolating herself in an inner world of grief. His rapid-fire questions made it impossible for me to ask him anything in return. So when we finally left I reproached him for it. Okay, now I feel completely exposedyou know pretty much everything about me and I know nothing about you.
Aha, that is part of my nefarious plan. He smiled, as the museum guard locked the doors behind us. How else could I expect you to say yes to meeting up again if I laid everything out on the table the first time we talked?
This isnt the first time we talked, I corrected him, trying to coolly ignore the fact that he seemed to be asking me out. Okay, the first time we talked without my unintentionally insulting you, he revised. We walked across the museums garden toward the reflecting pools, where screaming children were celebrating the fact that it was still hot and sunny at six p.
Vincent walked slightly hunched over with his hands in his pockets. For the first time I sensed in him a tiny hint of vulnerability. I took advantage of it. I dont even know how old you are. Nineteen, he said. What do you do? Because your friend said something about your being in the police force.
I couldnt help the trace of sarcasm in my voice. My sister and I saw you rescue that girl. Vincent stared at me blankly. The girl who jumped off the Carrousel Bridge during that gang fight.
Your friend escorted us away and told us it was a police procedure. Oh, he did? Vincent muttered, his expression assuming the hardened look itd had the first time I met him. He thrust his hands back into his pockets and continued walking. We were getting closer to the Mtro stop.
I slowed my pace to buy a little more time. So what are you guys, undercover cops? I didnt believe it for a second, but tried to sound sincere. His sudden change in mood had intrigued me. Something like that. What, kind of like a SWAT team? He didnt respond. That was really brave, by the way, I insisted.
Your diving into the river. What did the girl have to do with the gang fighting under the bridge, anyhow? I asked, digging further. Um, Im not supposed to talk about it, Vincent said, studying the concrete a few inches in front of his feet. Oh yeah. Of course, I said lightly. You just look really young to be a cop. I couldnt stop a facetious smile from spreading across my lips. I told you Im a student, he said, giving me an uncertain grin.
He could tell I didnt buy it. I didnt see anything. I didnt hear anything, I said dramatically. Vincent laughed, his good mood returning. Kate, what are you doing this weekend? Do you want to do something? I nodded, since I couldnt speak.
Taking my silence as hesitation, he added quickly, Not like a formal date or anything. Just hanging out. We can Wander around the Marais. I nodded again, and then managed to get out, That would be great. Okay, how about Saturday afternoon? In public. He held up his hands as if showing he wasnt hiding anything. As soon as it was out of my mouth I realized that I was afraid.
Just a little bit. I wondered once more if that was his pull on me. Maybe my parents deaths had left me with a lack of self-preservation and it was the hint of danger that I was going for.
Or maybe I was attracted to the vague aura of untouchable aloofness that he exuded. Maybe all he was to me was a challenge. Whatever the reason, it was effective. I really liked this guy. And I wanted to see him again. Night, day, I didnt care. Id be there. He lifted an eyebrow and chuckled.
Not afraid of me. I couldnt help myself from laughing along. Nodding the other direction down the boulevard, he said, Jules is probably waiting for me.
See you Saturday. Meet you outside the rue du Bac Mtro station at three? Saturday, three oclock, I confirmed as he turned and walked away. I dont think it would be exaggerating much to say that my feet didnt touch the ground the whole way home. My heart caught in my throat as I wondered not for the first time why this too-gorgeous-to-be-true guy had any interest whatsoever in plain old. My insecurity crumbled when I saw his face light up as I approached. You came, he said as he leaned in to give me the bises, those double-cheeked air-kisses that Europeans are famous for.
Though I shivered when his skin touched mine, my cheeks were warm for a good five minutes afterward. Of course, I said, drawing on every drop of my cool and confident reserve, since, to tell the truth, I was feeling a bit nervous.
So, where are we off to? We began walking down the steps to the subway tracks. Have you been to the Village Saint-Paul? I shook my head. Doesnt ring a bell. Perfect, he said, seeming pleased with himself but giving no further explanation. We barely talked on the train, but it wasnt for lack of conversation. I dont know if it is just a cultural thing, or because the trains themselves are so quiet, but as soon as people step into the car from the platform they shut up.
Vincent and I stood facing each other, holding on to the central steel pole for balance, and checked out the other passengers, who were busy checking us out. Have I mentioned that checking people out is the French national pastime? As we turned a corner and the train jerked to one side, he put an arm around my shoulders to steady me. We havent even gotten there and youre already making a move? Of course not. Im a gentleman through and through, he responded in a quiet voice.
I would throw my coat over a puddle for you any day. Im no damsel in distress, I retorted as the train pulled to a stop. Whewwell, thats a good thing, he said, breathing a fake sigh of relief. How about opening the door for me, then? I grinned as I flipped up the metal door-release lever and stepped onto the platform. We emerged from the Saint-Paul stop directly in front of the massive classical church called the glise Saint-Paul.
I used to come here when I was a kid, I said to Vincent as I peered up at the decorative facade. When I came to visit my grandparents during the summer, there was a girl I used to play with who lived just there. I pointed to a building a few doors away. Her dad told us that this street was used for jousts in the Middle Ages. Sandrine and I used to sit on the church steps and pretend we were in the middle of a medieval tournament. I closed my eyes and I was back, ten years ago, reliving the sounds and colors of our imaginary tourney.
You know, I always thought that if the centuries and centuries of Pariss ghosts could materialize all at once, you would find yourself surrounded by the most fascinating people. I stopped, suddenly embarrassed that I was spouting off to this guy I barely knew with details about one of my several dreamworlds. Vincent smiled.
If I were riding to the challenge, would you give me your favor to display on my arm, fair lady?
I pretended to dig through my bag. I cant seem to find my lace kerchief. How about a Kleenex? Laughing, Vincent threw an arm around my shoulders and squeezed me tightly.
Youre amazing, he said. Thats a definite step up from amusing, I reminded him, unable to prevent my cheeks from reddening with pleasure. We headed to a side road leading down toward the river. Halfway there, Vincent stepped through the large wooden doorway of a four-story building, pulling me behind him. Like many Parisian apartment blocks, this one had been constructed around an internal courtyard sheltered from the street.
The most modest courtyards are barely as big as a king-size bed, Others are large, some even having trees and benches, forming a quiet haven for residents away from the busy street. This courtyard was massive and had little shops, and even an outdoor caf, scattered among the ground-floor apartments, something I had never seen before.
What is this place? Vincent smiled and touched my arm, pointing to another open doorway on the far side of the courtyard.
This is just the beginning, he said. There are about five of these courtyards all linked together off the street, so you can wander for as long as you want without seeing or hearing the outside world.
Its all art galleries and antique shops. I thought youd like it. Like it? I love it! This is incredible! I said. I cant believe I havent been here before. Its off the beaten path.
Vincent seemed proud of his knowledge of Pariss out-of-the-way spots. And I was just happy that he wanted me along to explore them with him. Ill say, I agreed. Its almost completely hidden from the outside. Where do we start? We strolled through stores and galleries packed with everything from old posters to ancient Buddha heads.
For a city heaving with summer tourists, the shops had surprisingly few visitors, and we wandered through the spaces as if they were our own private treasure troves. As we browsed through an antique clothes store, Vincent stopped in front of a glass case that held jewelry.
Hey, Kate, maybe you can help me.
I need to get a gift for someone. Sure, I said, peering into the case as the shopkeeper lifted the cover for us. I fingered a pretty silver ring with a cluster of flowers curving outward from its surface. What would someone your age like? My age? Im only three years younger than you. Maybe less, depending on your birthday. June, he said. Okay, then two and a half. He laughed. All right, you got me there.
Its just that Im not sure what shed like. And her birthdays coming up. I felt like someone had punched me in the stomach. What an idiot I had been: He obviously just saw me as a friend Hmm, I said, closing my eyes and trying to hide my dismay.
I forced them back open and stared at the case. I guess it depends on her taste. Does she wear more feminine, flowery clothes, or is she more into Definitely not flowery, he said, stifling a laugh.
Well, I think this is really pretty, I said, pointing to a leather cord with a single teardrop-shaped silver pendant hanging from it. My voice wavered as I tried, unsuccessfully, to swallow the lump in my throat. Vincent leaned closer to the piece. I think youre right. Its perfect. Youre a genius, Kate. He lifted the necklace from the case and handed it to the shopkeeper. Im just going to wait for you outside, I said, and left as he fished through his pockets for his wallet.
Get a grip, I chided myself. It had seemed too good to be true, and it had been. He was only a really friendly guy. Who said I was cute. But who must just like to hang out with cute girls while buying vintage jewelry for his girlfriend. I wonder what she looks like.
My hands were clenched so tightly that my fingernails dug little trenches into my palms. The pain felt good. It relieved some of the stinging in my chest. Vincent came out of the shop, tucking a little envelope into his jeans pocket as he closed the door behind him. Seeing my face, he came to an abrupt stop. Whats wrong? Nothing, I said, shaking my head.
I just needed some air. No, he insisted. Somethings bothering you. I shook my head resolutely. Okay, Kate, he said, linking his arm through mine. I wont force you to talk. The pressure of his arm against my own filled me with warmth, but I mentally pushed it away.
I was so used to self-protection by now that it was almost a reflex. We wandered out of that courtyard and into another, walking in silence for a few minutes as we paused to look into shop windows. So, I said finally. I knew I shouldnt say it, but I couldnt help myself.
Whos your girlfriend? Your girlfriend. Who you bought the necklace for. He stopped and faced me. Kate, the necklace is for a friend A very good friend. He sounded I wondered for a second if it was the truth, then decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Vincent studied my face. You thought I was asking you to help me choose a present for my girlfriend? And that made you feel From the smile stretching across his lips I could tell he was about to say something that would embarrass me, so I began walking away.
Wait, Kate! Im sorry. I decided to play nonchalant about it. You told me this wasnt a formal date when you invited me to come. Why should I care if you have a girlfriend? Absolutely, he said, giving me a fake-serious look. Yeah, you and I are just friends Nothing more, nothing less. I agreed, my heart giving a little painful twist. He broke into a large grin and, leaning over, kissed me on the cheek. Kate, he whispered, you are way too gullible.
What I began, but his steely expression quieted me and I followed his leadwalking steadily, but not quite running, toward a doorway. Once on the street, he headed back toward the subway. Where are we going? I asked, breathless from the brisk pace. I saw someone I didnt want to run into. He slipped his cell phone from his pocket and speed-dialed a number.
Getting no response, he hung up and tried another. Do you mind telling me whats going on? I asked, confused by his sudden personality change. We have to find Jules, Vincent said, talking more to himself than to me. His painting studios right around the corner. I stopped, and since he had ahold of my arm, I pulled him Who are we running away from? It took a lot of effort for Vincent to compose himself. Please let me explain later.
Its really important that we find one of my The wonderful feeling from five minutes ago had disappeared. Now I felt like telling him to go ahead without me. But remembering what my days had consisted of lately, I decided to throw caution and boredom to the wind and follow him. He led me to an apartment building that practically oozed with old-Paris charm next to the glise Saint-Paul. We climbed a tightly winding wood staircase to the second-floor landing.
Vincent knocked once before pushing the door open. The studios walls were hung with paintings all the way up to the high ceiling.
Reclining nudes hung alongside geometriclooking townscapes. The visual overload of color and form was as overwhelming as the strong smell of paint thinner. In the far corner of the room a stunningly beautiful woman was draped across an emerald green couch. Dressed in a tiny bathrobe that barely covered her, she might as well have been naked.
Hi, Vincent, she called across the room with a low, smoky voice that couldnt have matched her seductive looks better if she had bought them as a paired set.
Vincents friend, Jules, walked out of a tiny bathroom just beyond the couch. Wiping some dripping paintbrushes on a rag, he said without looking up, Vince, man. Just getting started with Valerie here. Did you get Jean-Baptistes call? Jules, we have to talk, Vincent said with a sense of urgency He looked at me in surprise and then, seeing Vincents face, his own darkened.
Whats going on? Vincent cleared his throat, staring expressionlessly at Jules. He pronounced his words with care. The code word meant something to Jules. His eyes narrowed. Outside, he said, looking sideways at me, and strode out the door.
Be right back, Kate, Vincent said. Oh, and this is Valerie, one of Juless models. And having made that introduction, he followed Jules into the staircase, the door slamming behind him. A gentleman even during a crisis, I thought, amazed at Vincents sangfroid in making sure I was introduced to Naked Girl before leaving us alone together. Hi, I said. Bonjour, she replied, bored. Picking up a paperback, she settled back to read. I lingered near the door, looking at the paintings while trying to hear what was going on outside.
Their voices were hushed, but I could pick up a few words. Im with you now. Ambrose can be our third, Jules responded. There was silence, and then Vincent was speaking to someone on the phone. He hung up and said, Hes on his way.
Why the hell did you bring her with you? Jules sounded incredulous. Shes with me because we Vincents low voice traveled through the thin wood door easily. He called it a date, I thought with as much pleasure as I could derive under the circumstances.
That is exactly why she should not be here, Jules continued. JB only said we couldnt bring people home I dont see why she cant come here. Their voices were getting lower. I scooted closer to the door, keeping an eye on Valerie, who glanced at me and back down at her book.
She obviously couldnt care less if I was eavesdropping. Anywhere we have a permanent address is off-limits for. Or whatever. You know the rules. In any case, dates over! There was a pregnant silence, which I imagined was taken up by lots of boy-to-boy stare-down action, and then the door opened and Vincent walked in, looking apologetic.
In other words, culture here means the texts and practices whose principal function is to signify, to produce or to be the occasion for the production of meaning.
Using this definition, we would probably think of examples such as poetry, the novel, ballet, opera, and fine art. The second meaning — culture as a particular way of life — would allow us to speak of such practices as the seaside holiday, the celebration of Christmas, and youth subcultures, as examples of culture.
These are usually referred to as lived cultures or practices. The third meaning — culture as signifying practices — would allow us to speak of soap opera, pop music, and comics, as examples of culture. These are usually referred to as texts. Ideology Before we turn to the different definitions of popular culture, there is another term we have to think about: Ideology is a crucial concept in the study of popular cul- ture.
Like culture, ideology has many competing meanings. An understanding of this concept is often complicated by the fact that in much cultural analysis the concept is used interchangeably with culture itself, and especially popular culture. The fact that ideology has been used to refer to the same conceptual terrain as culture and popular culture makes it an important term in any understanding of the nature of popular cul- ture.
What follows is a brief discussion of just five of the many ways of understanding ideology. We will consider only those meanings that have a bearing on the study of popular culture. First, ideology can refer to a systematic body of ideas articulated by a particular group of people. Here we would be referring to the collection of polit- ical, economic and social ideas that inform the aspirations and activities of the Party. Ideology 3 A second definition suggests a certain masking, distortion, or concealment.
Ideology is used here to indicate how some texts and practices present distorted images of real- ity. Such distortions, it is argued, work in the interests of the powerful against the interests of the powerless. Using this definition, we might speak of capitalist ideology.
What would be intimated by this usage would be the way in which ideology conceals the reality of domination from those in power: And, perhaps more importantly, the way in which ideology conceals the reality of subordination from those who are powerless: This definition derives from certain assumptions about the circumstances of the production of texts and practices.
This is one of the fundamental assumptions of classical Marxism. In the social production of their existence men enter into definite, necessary rela- tions, which are independent of their will, namely, relations of production corres- ponding to a determinate stage of development of their material forces of production.
The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation on which there arises a legal and political superstruc- ture and to which there correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general 3. What Marx is suggesting is that the way a society organizes the means of its eco- nomic production will have a determining effect on the type of culture that society pro- duces or makes possible.
In Chapter 4, we will consider the modifications made by Marx and Frederick Engels themselves to this formulation, and the way in which subsequent Marxists have further modified what has come to be regarded by many cultural critics as a rather mechanistic account of what we might call the social relations of culture and popular culture.
Abandon this claim, it is argued, and Marxism ceases to be Marxism Bennett, a: We can also use ideology in this general sense to refer to power relations outside those of class. In Chapter 8 we will examine the ideology of racism. This usage is intended to draw attention to the way in which texts television fiction, pop songs, novels, feature films, etc.
This definition depends on a notion of society as conflictual rather than consensual, structured around inequality, exploitation and oppression. Texts are said to take sides, consciously or unconsciously, in this conflict. The German playwright Bertolt Brecht summarizes the point: There is no play and no theatrical performance which does not in some way affect the dispositions and conceptions of the audience. Another way of saying this would be simply to argue that all texts are ultimately political.
That is, they offer competing ideological significations of the way the world is or should be. A fourth definition of ideology is one associated with the early work of the French cultural theorist Roland Barthes discussed in more detail in Chapter 6. What was being suggested is that the socialism of the Labour Party is synonymous with social, economic and political imprisonment. Moreover, it hoped to locate socialism in a binary relationship in which it connoted unfreedom, whilst conservatism connoted freedom.
For Barthes, this would be a classic example of the operations of ideology, the attempt to make universal and legitimate what is in fact partial and particular; an attempt to pass off that which is cultural i.
This is made clear in such formulations as a female pop singer, a black jour- nalist, a working-class writer, a gay comedian. A fifth definition is one that was very influential in the s and early s. It is the definition of ideology developed by the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser.
We shall discuss Althusser in more detail in Chapter 4. Here I will simply outline some key points about one of his definitions of ideology. Principally, what Althusser has in mind is the way in which certain rituals and customs have the effect of binding us to the social order: Using this definition, we could describe the seaside holiday or the celebra- tion of Christmas as examples of ideological practices.
This would point to the way in which they offer pleasure and release from the usual demands of the social order, but that, ultimately, they return us to our places in the social order, refreshed and ready to tolerate our exploitation and oppression until the next official break comes along. In this sense, ideology works to reproduce the social conditions and social relations neces- sary for the economic conditions and economic relations of capitalism to continue.
So far we have briefly examined different ways of defining culture and ideology. What should be clear by now is that culture and ideology do cover much the same con- ceptual landscape. The main difference between them is that ideology brings a polit- ical dimension to the shared terrain.
Popular culture There are various ways to define popular culture. This book is of course in part about that very process, about the different ways in which various critical approaches have attempted to fix the meaning of popular culture. Therefore, all I intend to do for the remainder of this chapter is to sketch out six definitions of popular culture that in their different, general ways, inform the study of popular culture.
Williams suggests four current meanings: An obvious starting point in any attempt to define popular culture is to say that popular culture is simply culture that is widely favoured or well liked by many people. And, undoubtedly, such a quantitative index would meet the approval of many people. We could also examine attendance records at concerts, sporting events, and festivals. We could also scrutinize market research figures on audience preferences for different television programmes.
Such counting would undoubtedly tell us a great deal. The difficulty might prove to be that, paradoxically, it tells us too much. Despite this problem, what is clear is that any definition of popular culture must include a quantitative dimension.
The popular of popular culture would seem to demand it. What is also clear, however, is that on its own, a quantitative index is not enough to provide an adequate definition of popular culture.
A second way of defining popular culture is to suggest that it is the culture that is left over after we have decided what is high culture. Popular culture, in this definition, is a residual category, there to accommodate texts and practices that fail to meet the required standards to qualify as high culture.
In other words, it is a definition of popu- lar culture as inferior culture. For example, we might want to insist on formal complexity. In other words, to be real culture, it has to be difficult. Being difficult thus ensures its exclusive status as high culture.
Its very difficulty liter- ally excludes, an exclusion that guarantees the exclusivity of its audience. The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu argues that cultural distinctions of this kind are often used to support class distinctions. Taste is a deeply ideological category: This will be discussed in more detail in Chapters 9 and This definition of popular culture is often supported by claims that popular cul- ture is mass-produced commercial culture, whereas high culture is the result of an individual act of creation.
The latter, therefore, deserves only a moral and aesthetic response; the former requires only a fleeting sociological inspection to unlock what little it has to offer. Whatever the method deployed, those who wish to make the case for the division between high and popular culture generally insist that the division between the two is absolutely clear. Moreover, not only is this division clear, it is trans- historical — fixed for all time. This latter point is usually insisted on, especially if the division is dependent on supposed essential textual qualities.
There are many problems with this certainty. For example, William Shakespeare is now seen as the epitome of high culture, yet as late as the nineteenth century his work was very much a part of popular theatre. Similarly, film noir can be seen to have crossed the border supposedly separating popu- lar and high culture: Even the most rigorous defenders of high culture would not want to exclude Pavarotti or Puccini from its select enclave. Such commercial success on any quantitative ana- lysis would make the composer, the performer and the aria, popular culture.
Other stu- dents laughed and mocked. About , people were expected, but because of heavy rain, the number who actually attended was around , Two things about the event are of interest to a student of popular culture. The first is the enormous popularity of the event. His obvious popularity would appear to call into question any clear division between high and popular culture.
It is therefore interesting to note the way in which the event was reported in the media. All the British tabloids carried news of the event on their front pages. The Daily Mirror, for instance, had five pages devoted to the concert. What the tabloid coverage reveals is a clear attempt to define the event for popular culture. When the event was reported on televi- sion news programmes the following lunchtime, the tabloid coverage was included as part of the general meaning of the event.
The old certainties of the cultural landscape suddenly seemed in doubt. However, there was some attempt made to reintroduce the old certainties: Although such comments invoked the spectre of high-culture exclusivity, they seemed strangely at a loss to offer any purchase on the event. The apparently obvious cultural division between high and popular culture no longer seemed so obvious.
An example of this usage would be: Yet, on the other hand, something is said to be bad for the very same reason. Consider the binary oppositions in Table 1.
Table 1. This is principally the work of the education sys- tem and its promotion of a selective tradition see Chapter 3. This draws heavily on the previous definition. The mass culture perspective will be discussed in some detail in Chapter 2; therefore all I want to do here is to suggest the basic terms of this definition. The first point that those who refer to popular culture as mass culture want to establish is that popular culture is a hopelessly commercial culture.
It is mass- produced for mass consumption. Its audience is a mass of non-discriminating con- sumers. The culture itself is formulaic, manipulative to the political right or left, depending on who is doing the analysis. It is a culture that is consumed with brain- numbed and brain-numbing passivity.
Simon Frith Such stat- istics should clearly call into question the notion of consumption as an automatic and passive activity see Chapters 7 and This usually takes one of two forms: The Frankfurt School, as we shall see in Chapter 4, locate the lost golden age, not in the past, but in the future.
For some cultural critics working within the mass culture paradigm, mass culture is not just an imposed and impoverished culture, it is in a clear identifiable sense an imported American culture: The claim that popular culture is American culture has a long history within the theoretical mapping of popular culture.
There are two things we can say with some confidence about the United States and popular culture. Second, although the availability of American culture worldwide is undoubted, how what is available is consumed is at the very least contradictory see Chapter 9.
What is true is that in the s one of the key periods of Americanization , for many young people in Britain, American culture represented a force of liberation against the grey certain- ties of British everyday life. What is also clear is that the fear of Americanization is closely related to a distrust regardless of national origin of emerging forms of popu- lar culture.
As with the mass culture perspective generally, there are political left and political right versions of the argument.
There is what we might call a benign version of the mass culture perspective. The texts and practices of popular culture are seen as forms of public fantasy. Popular cul- ture is understood as a collective dream world. In this sense, cultural practices such as Christmas and the seaside holiday, it could be argued, function in much the same way as dreams: Structuralism, although not usually placed within the mass culture perspective, and certainly not sharing its moralistic approach, nevertheless sees popular culture as a sort of ideological machine which more or less effortlessly reproduces the prevailing struc- tures of power.
There is little space for reader activity or textual contradiction. Chapter 6 will consider these issues in some detail. This is popular culture as folk culture: No matter how much we might insist on this definition, the fact remains that people do not spontaneously produce culture from raw materials of their own making.
Whatever popular culture is, what is certain is that its raw materials are those which are commercially provided. Critical analysis of pop and rock music is particularly replete with this kind of analysis of popular culture. At a con- ference I once attended, a contribution from the floor suggested that Levi jeans would never be able to use a song from The Jam to sell its products.
The fact that they had already used a song by The Clash would not shake this conviction. As this was not going to happen, Levi jeans would never use a song by The Jam to sell its products. But this had already happened to The Clash, a band with equally sound political credentials. This circular exchange stalled to a stop.
The cultural studies use of the concept of hegemony would have, at the very least, fuelled further discussion see Chapter 4.
A fifth definition of popular culture, then, is one that draws on the political ana- lysis of the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci, particularly on his development of the concept of hegemony. This will be dis- cussed in some detail in Chapter 4.
The process is historical labelled popular culture one moment, and another kind of culture the next , but it is also synchronic moving between resistance and incorporation at any given historical moment. For instance, the seaside holiday began as an aristocratic event and within a hundred years it had become an example of popular culture.
Film noir started as despised popular cinema and within thirty years had become art cinema. In general terms, those looking at popular culture from the perspective of hegemony theory tend to see it as a terrain of ideological struggle between dominant and subordinate classes, dominant and subordinate cultures.
As Bennett explains, The field of popular culture is structured by the attempt of the ruling class to win hegemony and by forms of opposition to this endeavour. Popular culture 11 The compromise equilibrium of hegemony can also be employed to analyse differ- ent types of conflict within and across popular culture. The Conservative Party political broadcast, discussed earlier, reveals this process in action.
What was being attempted was the disarticulation of socialism as a political movement concerned with economic, social and political emancipation, in favour of its articulation as a political movement concerned to impose restraints on individual freedom. Also, as we shall see in Chapter 7, feminism has always recognized the importance of cultural struggle within the contested landscape of popular culture. Feminist presses have published science fiction, detective fiction and romance fiction.
Such cultural interventions rep- resent an attempt to articulate popular genres for feminist politics. It is also possible, using hegemony theory, to locate the struggle between resistance and incorporation as taking place within and across individual popular texts and practices.
Thus a text is made up of a contradictory mix of different cultural forces. How these elements are articulated will depend in part on the social cir- cumstances and historical conditions of production and consumption. David Morley has modified the model to take into account discourse and subjectivity: There is another aspect of popular culture that is suggested by hegemony theory.
This is of course to make popular culture a profoundly political concept. Popular culture is a site where the construction of everyday life may be examined. The point of doing this is not only academic — that is, as an attempt to understand a process or practice — it is also political, to examine the power relations that con- stitute this form of everyday life and thus reveal the configurations of interests its construction serves Turner, Fiske argues, as does Paul Willis from a slightly different perspective also discussed in Chapter 10 , that popular culture is what people make from the products of the culture industries — mass culture is the repertoire, popular culture is what people actively make from it, actually do with the commodities and commodified practices they consume.
A sixth definition of popular culture is one informed by recent thinking around the debate on postmodernism. This will be the subject of Chapter 9.
All I want to do now is to draw attention to some of the basic points in the debate about the relationship between postmodernism and popular culture. The main point to insist on here is the claim that postmodern culture is a culture that no longer recognizes the distinction between high and popular culture. As we shall see, for some this is a reason to celebrate an end to an elitism constructed on arbitrary distinctions of culture; for others it is a reason to despair at the final victory of commerce over culture.
For example, there is a growing list of artists who have had hit records as a result of their songs appearing in television com- mercials. One of the questions this relationship raises is: Moreover, it is now possible to buy CDs that consist of the songs that have become successful, or have become successful again, as a result of being used in advertisements.
There is a wonderful circularity to this: For those with little sympathy for either postmodernism or the celebratory theorizing of some postmodernists, the real question is: Those on the political right might worry about what it is doing to the status of real culture.
This has resulted in a sus- tained debate in cultural studies. The significance of popular culture is central to this debate. This, and other questions, will be explored in Chapter 9. The chapter will also address, from the perspective of the student of popular culture, the question: This of course makes Britain the first country to produce popular culture defined in this historically restricted way. There are other ways to define popular culture, which do not depend on this particular history or these particu- lar circumstances, but they are definitions that fall outside the range of the cultural theorists and the cultural theory discussed in this book.
The argument, which under- pins this particular periodization of popular culture, is that the experience of industri- alization and urbanization changed fundamentally the cultural relations within the landscape of popular culture. Before industrialization and urbanization, Britain had two cultures: As a result of industrialization and urbanization, three things happened, which together had the effect of redrawing the cultural map. First of all, industrialization changed the relations between employees and employers.
Second, urbanization produced a residential separation of classes. For the first time in British history there were whole sections of towns and cities inhabited only by working men and women. Third, the panic engendered by the French Revolution — the fear that it might be imported into Britain — encouraged successive governments to enact a variety of repressive measures aimed at defeating radicalism.
Political radical- ism and trade unionism were not destroyed, but driven underground to organize beyond the influence of middle-class interference and control.
These three factors combined to produce a cultural space outside of the paternalist considerations of the earlier common culture. The result was the production of a cultural space for the generation of a popular culture more or less outside the controlling influence of the dominant classes. How this space was filled was a subject of some controversy for the founding fathers of culturalism see Chapter 3. A great deal of the difficulty arises from the absent other which always haunts any definition we might use.
It is never enough to speak of popular culture; we have always to acknowledge that with which it is being contrasted.
Most of the time and for most people it simply is culture. This of course makes an understanding of the range of ways of theorizing popular culture all the more important. This book, then, is about the theorizing that has brought us to our present state of thinking on popular culture.
It is about how the changing terrain of popular culture has been explored and mapped by different cultural theorists and different theoretical approaches. It is upon their shoulders that we stand when we think critically about popular culture.
The aim of this book is to introduce readers to the different ways in which popular culture has been analysed and the different popular cultures that have been articulated as a result of the process of analysis.
For it must be remembered that popular culture is not a historically fixed set of popular texts and practices, nor is it a historically fixed conceptual category. The object under theoretical scrutiny is both his- torically variable, and always in part constructed by the very act of theoretical engage- ment.
This is further complicated by the fact that different theoretical perspectives have tended to focus on particular areas of the popular cultural landscape. The most com- mon division is between the study of texts popular fiction, television, pop music, etc. The aim of this book, therefore, is to provide readers with a map of the terrain to enable them to begin their own explorations, to begin their own map- ping of the main theoretical and political debates that have characterized the study of popular culture.
Further reading Storey, John ed. A Reader, 4th edition, Harlow: Pearson Education, This is the companion volume to this book. It contains examples of most of the work discussed here. This book and the companion Reader are supported by an interactive website www. The website has links to other useful sites and electronic resources.
Falmer Press, As the title implies, this is a book about cultural studies written from a perspective sympathetic to the Frankfurt School. It offers some useful commentary on popular culture, espe- cially Chapter 2: Further reading 15 Allen, Robert C. Routledge, Although this collection is specifically focused on television, it contains some excel- lent essays of general interest to the student of popular culture.
Open University Press, An interesting collection of essays, covering both theory and analysis. Edward Arnold, A brilliant glossary of the key terms in cultural theory. Day, Gary ed. Macmillan, A mixed col- lection of essays, some interesting and useful, others too unsure about how seriously to take popular culture. The Story of the Sony Walkman, London: Sage, An excellent introduc- tion to some of the key issues in cultural studies. Fiske, John, Reading the Popular, London: Unwin Hyman, A collection of essays analysing different examples of popular culture.
A clear pre- sentation of his particular approach to the study of popular culture. The Long Debate, St Leonards: The book traces the debate between high and popular culture, with particular, but not exclusive, reference to the Australian experience, from the eigh- teenth century to the present day.
UCL Press, A useful introduction to contemporary cultural theory. University of California Press, A collection of essays, with an informed and interesting introduction. The book is helpfully divided into sections on different approaches to popular culture: Indiana University Press, A useful and interesting collection of essays on cultural theory and popular culture. Blackwell, An historical account of the concept of popular culture. A clear and comprehensive introduction to theories of popular culture.
Tolson, Andrew, Mediations: Text and Discourse in Media Studies, London: An excellent introduction to the study of popular media culture. Still the best introduction to British cultural studies. Walton, David, Introducing Cultural Studies: Learning Through Practice, London: Another excellent introduction to cultural studies: In the nineteenth century, however, there is a fundamental change in this relationship.
Those with power lose, for a crucial period, the means to control the culture of the sub- ordinate classes. When they begin to recover control, it is culture itself, and not culture as a symptom or sign of something else, that becomes, really for the first time, the actual focus of concern. As we noted at the end of Chapter 1, two factors are crucial to an understanding of these changes: Together they produce other changes that contribute to the making of a popular culture that marks a decisive break with the cultural relationships of the past.
If we take early nineteenth-century Manchester as our example of the new industrial urban civilization, certain points become clear. First of all, the town evolved clear lines of class segregation; second, residential separation was compounded by the new work relations of industrial capitalism.
Third, on the basis of changes in living and working relations, there developed cultural changes. Put very simply, the Manchester working class was given space to develop an independent culture at some remove from the direct intervention of the dominant classes.
Industrialization and urbanization had redrawn the cultural map. No longer was there a shared common culture, with an addi- tional culture of the powerful. Now, for the first time in history, there was a separate culture of the subordinate classes of the urban and industrial centres. It was a culture of two main sources: Each of these developments in different ways threatened traditional notions of cultural cohesion and social stability.
One threatened to weaken authority through the commercial disman- tling of cultural cohesion; the other offered a direct challenge to all forms of political and cultural authority. These were not developments guaranteed to hearten those who feared for the con- tinuation of a social order based on power and privilege.
It is out of this context, and its continuing aftermath, which the political study of popular culture first emerges. Matthew Arnold The study of popular culture in the modern age can be said to begin with the work of Matthew Arnold.
In some ways this is surprising as he had very little to say directly about popular culture. Arnold established a cultural agenda that remained dominant in debate from the s until the s. His significance, therefore, lies not with any body of empirical work, but with the enormous influence of his general perspective — the Arnoldian perspective — on popular culture.
For Arnold , culture begins by meaning two things. First and foremost, it is a body of knowledge: In other words, culture is the endeavour to know the best and to make this knowledge prevail for the good of all humankind. But how is culture to be attained? Culture, therefore, no longer consists in two things, but in three.
There is, however, a fourth aspect to consider: For Arnold, then, culture is: Popular culture is never actually defined. The upshot of this is that anarchy and culture are for Arnold deeply political concepts.
The social function of culture is to police this disruptive presence: The problem is working-class lived culture: The context of all this is the suffrage agitation of —7.
His division of society into Barbarians aristocracy , Philistines middle class and Populace working class would seem at first sight to defuse the class nature of this discourse. However, if we examine what Arnold means by a common basis, we are forced to a different conclusion. If we ima- gine the human race existing on an evolutionary continuum with itself at one end and a common ancestor shared with the ape at the other, what Arnold seems to be suggesting is that the aristocracy and middle class are further along the evolutionary continuum than the working class.
This is shown quite clearly in his example of the common basis of our human nature. He claims that every time that we snatch up a vehement opinion in ignorance and passion, every time that we long to crush an adversary by sheer violence, every time that we are envious, every time that we are brutal, every time that we adore mere power or suc- cess, every time that we add our voice to swell a blind clamour against some unpopular personage, every time that we trample savagely on the fallen [we have] found in our own bosom the eternal spirit of the Populace First, it must carefully guide the aristocracy and the middle class from such circumstances.
The principle of authority, as we shall see, is to be found in a strong centralized State. Why did Arnold think like this? The answer has a great deal to do with the histor- ical changes witnessed by the nineteenth century.
On the other, they are recognition of a historical process that had been in play from at least the eighteenth century the development of industrial capitalism.
Arnold believed that the franchise had given power to men as yet uneducated for power. It is the function of education to restore a sense of sub- ordination and deference to the class. In short, culture would remove popular culture. Two factors make the State necessary. First, the decline of the aristocracy as a centre of authority; second, the rise of democracy. Together they create a terrain favourable to anarchy. The solution is to occupy this ter- rain with a mixture of culture and coercion.
The State will operate in two ways: It is, therefore, worth looking briefly at his vision of education. Arnold does not envis- age working-class, middle-class and aristocratic students all walking down the same road to culture.
For the aristocracy, education is to accustom it to decline, to banish it as a class to history. For the working class, education is to civilize it for subordination, deference and exploitation. Arnold saw working-class schools primary and elemen- tary as little more than outposts of civilization in a dark continent of working- class barbarism: According to Arnold, working-class children had to be civilized before they could be instructed.
In a letter to his mother, written in , he writes: For the middle class, education was something quite different. Its essential function is to prepare middle-class children for the power that is to be theirs. What it amounts to is a revolution from above, a revolution to prevent popular revolution from below.
It works on the principle that a reform given is always better than a reform taken, forced or won. Popular demands are met, but in such a way as to weaken claims for further demands. It is not that Arnold did not desire a better society, one with less squalor, less poverty, less ignor- ance, etc.
Most of what I have said is a roundabout way of saying that the first grand theorist of popular culture had in fact very little to say about popular culture, except, that is, to say that it is symptomatic of a profound political disorder.
Working-class culture is significant to the extent that it signals evidence of social and cultural disorder and decline — a break- down in social and cultural authority. The fact that working-class culture exists at all is evidence enough of decline and disorder. One writer in particular seems especially relevant, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It is the function of the cultiv- ated clerisy to guide the progress of civilization: But the purpose is essentially the same: Such a reading of history is hardly likely to inspire much confidence in democracy — let alone in popular culture.
The inescapable answer seems to be: All that is required from the rest of us is to recognize our cultural differ- ence and acknowledge our cultural deference. Arnold is clear on this point: The mass of mankind will never have any ardent zeal for seeing things as they are; very inadequate ideas will always satisfy them.
On these inadequate ideas reposes, and must repose, the general practice of the world. That is as much as saying that whoever sets himself to see things as they are will find himself one of a very small circle; but it is only by this small circle resolutely doing its own work that adequate ideas will ever get current at all —5. And again, The highly instructed few, and not the scantily instructed many, will ever be the organ to the human race of knowledge and truth.
Knowledge and truth in the full sense of the words, are not attainable by the great mass of the human race at all Arnold, — These are very revealing statements. If the mass of humankind is to be always satis- fied with inadequate ideas, never able to attain truth and knowledge, for whom are the small circle working?
And what of the adequate ideas they will make current — current for whom? For other small circles of elites? It would appear that Arnold has been ensnared by his own elitism: However, Arnold does not so much reject practical politics, as leave them in the safe hands of established authority.
Therefore, the only politics that are being rejected are the politics of protest, the politics of opposition. This is a very stale defence of the dominant order. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, his influence has been enormous in that the Arnoldian perspective virtually mapped out the way of thinking about popular culture and cultural politics that dominated the field until the late ls.
Leavisism For Matthew Arnold it was in some ways less difficult. I am thinking of the so much more desperate plight of culture today Leavis, The influence of Arnold on F. Leavis is there for all to see. What had been identified by Arnold as a feature of the nineteenth century, it is argued, had continued and been compounded in the twentieth: The work of Leavisism spans a period of some forty years. However, the Leavisite attitude to popular culture was formed in the early s with the publication of three texts: Mass Civilisation and Minority Culture, by F.
Leavis, Fiction and the Reading Public, by Q. Leavis and Culture and Environment, by F. Leavis and Denys Thompson. Together these form the basis of the Leavisite response to popular culture. Upon the minority depends our power of profiting by the finest human experience of the past; they keep alive the subtlest and most perishable parts of tradition.
Upon them depend the implicit standards that order the finer living of an age, the sense that this is worth more than that, this rather than that is the direction in which to go, that the centre is here rather than there 5. What has changed is the status of this minority. No longer can it command cultural deference, no longer is its cultural authority unchallenged. One danger which I have long foreseen from the spread of the democratic senti- ment, is that of the traditions of literary taste, the canons of literature, being reversed with success by a popular vote.
Up to the present time, in all parts of the world, the masses of uneducated or semieducated persons, who form the vast majority of readers, though they cannot and do not appreciate the classics of their race, have been content to acknowledge their traditional supremacy. Of late there have seemed to me to be certain signs, especially in America, of a revolt of the mob against our literary masters. If literature is to be judged by a plebiscite and if the plebs recognises its power, it will certainly by degrees cease to support reputations which give it no pleasure and which it cannot comprehend.
The revolution against taste, once begun, will land us in irreparable chaos According to Leavis and Thompson, what Gosse had only feared had now come to pass: But the minority now is made conscious, not merely of an uncongenial, but of a hostile environment. It is not merely that the power and the sense of authority are now divorced from culture, but that some of the most disinterested solicitude for civilisation is apt to be, consciously or unconsciously, inimical to culture Leavis, The threat of democracy in matters both cultural and political is a terrifying thought for Leavisism.
Moreover, according to Q. Like Arnold, she sees the collapse of traditional authority coming at the same time as the rise of mass democracy.
Leavisism isolates certain key aspects of mass culture for special discussion. This form of compensation. Self-abuse is one thing, but there is worse: For those not addicted to popular fiction, there is always the danger of cinema. Its popularity makes it a very dangerous source of pleasure indeed: For Q. In Culture and Environment, Leavis and Thompson state: They provide examples for analysis mostly written by F.
Leavis himself. Cute scientific dodge. You see, they experi- mented. You talk like an advert- isement. They then suggest the following questions for school students in the fifth and sixth forms: How would he behave in situations where mob passions run high? First of all, the connection that is made between the advertisement and so-called mob passions. This is an unusual ques- tion, even for students of cultural studies. Other questions operate in much the same way. Here are a few examples: Describe the kind of reader this passage would please, and say why it would please him.
What kind of person can you imagine responding to such an appeal as this last? What kind of standards are implied here? Why do we wince at the mentality that uses this idiom? Develop the discussion of the educational value of cinema as suggested here Leavis , in Fiction and the Reading Public, has charted this supposed decline.
Her account of the organic relations between populace and cultivated are very revealing: They had to take the same amuse- ments as their betters. According to Q. There was then no such complete separation as we have. What is interesting about their account of the past is what it reveals about their ideal future.
The golden age was not just marked by cultural coherence, but happily for the Leavisites, a cultural coherence based on authoritarian and hierarchical principles.
It was a common culture that gave intellectual stimulation at one end, and affective plea- sure at the other. This was a mythic world in which everyone knew their place, knew their station in life. Most of this culture was, according to Leavisism, destroyed by the changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution. The last rem- nants of the organic community, however, could still be found in rural communities in nineteenth-century England.
Leavis and Thompson offer a reminder of what had been lost: What we have lost is the organic community with the living culture it embodied. Folk songs, folk dances, Cotswold cottages and handicraft products are signs and expressions of something more: They also claim that the quality of work has also deteriorated with the loss of the organic community.
Whereas in the past a worker lived in his or her work, he or she now works in order to live outside his or her work. Whereas in the organic com- munity everyday culture was a constant support to the health of the individual, in mass civilization one must make a conscious and directed effort to avoid the unhealthy influence of everyday culture. What we are pre- sented with is not a historical account, but a literary myth to draw attention to the nature of our supposed loss: But, although the organic commun- ity is lost, it is still possible to get access to its values and standards by reading works of great literature.
Literature is a treasury embodying all that is to be valued in human experience. Unfortunately, literature as the jewel in the crown of culture, has, like culture, lost its authority. It is very easy to be critical of the Leavisite approach to popular culture. But, as Bennett b points out, Even as late as the mid fifties. Mass culture in America: Following the Second World War, America experienced the temporary success of a cultural and political consensus — supposedly based on liberalism, pluralism and classlessness.
As Ross points out: He identifies three positions in the debate: An aesthetic—liberal position that bemoans the fact that given the choice the majority of the population choose so-called second- and third-rate cultural texts and practices in preference to the texts and practices of high culture. The corporate—liberal or progressive—evolutionist position that claims that popular culture serves a benign function of socializing people into the pleasures of consumption in the new capitalist—consumerist society.
The radical or socialist position which views mass culture as a form of, or means to, social control. Towards the end of the s, the debate became increasingly dominated by the first two positions. This reflected in part the growing McCarthyite pressure to renounce any- thing resembling a socialist analysis. Given limited space, I will focus only on the debate about the health of the body politic within.
In order to understand the debate one publication is essential reading — the anthology Mass Culture: The Popular Arts in America, published in Bernard Rosenberg co-editor with David Manning White argues that the material wealth and well-being of American society are being undermined by the dehumaniz- ing effects of mass culture.
He claims that mass culture is not American by nature, or by example, nor is it the inevitable culture of democracy. Mass culture, according to Rosenberg, is nowhere more widespread than in the Soviet Union. Its author is not capitalism, but technology. Therefore America cannot be held responsible for its emer- gence or for its persistence. White makes a similar point but for a different pur- pose. His defence of American mass culture is to compare it with aspects of the popular culture of the past.
He maintains that critics romanticize the past in order to castigate the present. The second part of his defence consists of cataloguing the extent to which high culture flourishes in America: A key figure in the debate is Dwight Macdonald.
First of all, mass culture undermines the vitality of high culture. It is a parasitic culture, feeding on high culture, while offering nothing in return.
Folk art grew from below. It was a spontaneous, autochthonous expression of the people, shaped by themselves, pretty much without the benefit of High Culture, to suit their own needs. Mass Culture is imposed from above. It is fabricated by tech- nicians hired by businessmen; its audience are passive consumers, their participa- tion limited to the choice between buying and not buying.
But Mass Culture breaks down the wall, integrating the masses into a debased form of High Culture and thus becoming an instrument of political domination Like other contributors to the debate, Macdonald is quick to deny the claim that America is the land of mass culture: But it is mass culture not folk culture: If one existed, the masses could have mass culture and the elite could have high culture. His conclusions are pessimistic to say the least: The analysis changes again as we move from the disillusioned ex-Trotskyism of Macdonald to the liberalism of Ernest van den Haag , who suggests that mass culture is the inevitable outcome of mass society and mass production: The mass produced article need not aim low, but it must aim at an average of tastes.
In satisfying all or at least many individual tastes in some respects, it vio- lates each in other respects. For there are so far no average persons having average tastes. Averages are but statistical composites.
This is one source of the sense of violation which is rationalized vaguely in theories about deliberate debasement of taste He also suggests another reason: Two factors must be particularly tempting: He uses Dante as an illustration. Although Dante may have suffered religious and political pressures, he was not tempted to shape his work to make it appeal to an average of tastes. Dante was fortunate; his talent was never really tempted to stray from the true path of creativity: It is not so much that mass taste has deteriorated, van den Haag argues, but that mass taste has become more important to the cultural producers in Western societies.
Like White, he notes the plurality of cultural texts and practices consumed in America. However, he also notes the way in which high culture and folk culture are absorbed into mass culture, and are consequently consumed as mass culture: Mass culture is ultimately a sign of impoverishment. It marks the de-individualization of life: This leads van den Haag to suggest that the consumption of mass culture is a form of repres- sion; the empty texts and practices of mass culture are consumed to fill an emptiness within, which grows ever more empty the more the empty texts and practices of mass culture are consumed.
Though the bored person hungers for things to happen to him, the disheartening fact is that when they do he empties them of the very meaning he unconsciously yearns for by using them as distractions. Moreover, he knows that when van den Haag says that industry has impoverished life he is talking nonsense: The present pleasures of the working and lower middle class are not worthy of pro- found aesthetic, moral or intellectual esteem but they are surely not inferior to the villainous things which gave pleasure to their European ancestors from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century Shils rejects completely the utterly erroneous idea that the twentieth century is a period of severe intellec- tual deterioration and that this alleged deterioration is a product of a mass culture.
Indeed, it would be far more correct to assert that mass culture is now less dam- aging to the lower classes than the dismal and harsh existence of earlier centuries had ever been As far as Shils can see the problem is not mass culture, but the response of intel- lectuals to mass culture. In similar fashion, D. I do not mean. Our experience along these lines is, in this sense, a preview for the rest of the world of what must follow the inevitable dissolution of the older aristocratic cultures As he explains, contemporary vulgar culture is brutal and disturbing: Fiedler poses the question: What is wrong with American mass culture?
He knows that for some critics, at home and abroad, the fact that it is American is enough reason to condemn it. But, for Fiedler, the inevitability of the American experience makes the argument meaningless; that is, unless those who support the argument are also against industrialization, mass education and democracy.
The attack on popular culture is a symptom of timidity and an expression of conformity in matters of culture: The genteel middling mind wants cultural equality on its own terms. This is not the Leavisite demand for cultural deference, but an insistence on an end to cultural differ- ence.
Therefore, Fiedler sees American mass culture as hierarchical and pluralist, rather than homogenized and levelling. Moreover, he celebrates it as such. However, Shils does not see this as a totally negative development: