Metapop: Self-Referentiality in American Popular Culture. Michael Dunne. Studies in Popular Culture; M. Thomas Inge, editor. Jackson & London: UP of Mississippi, 1992. Cloth.
Any book whose first chapter is subtitled, "You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Chapter Is About You," can't be all bad. And indeed, one of the many good things about Michael Dunne's book is its wit, which enlivens its impressive scholarship. Another is his lucid and lively style, which, in spite of this book's chicly post-modern subject, never succumbs to the lure of the obscure. Here is Dunne on the makers of music video: "Unlike saviors slouching from the cultural left and the right...creators in the heart of the culture often credit their audiences with as much sense as they have themselves" (189).
This book's chief value, however, lies in its exploration of a fascinating and neglected popular culture phenomenon, self-referentiality, or the deliberate inclusion of references within an artifact to the maker and/or the making of the artifact and/or to its nature as artifice. Dunne is aware that self-referentiality goes back at least to the Middle Ages and is also to be found in elite and folk culture, but his focus is mainly on popular culture, contemporary American style.
Even so Dunne has had to be selective, with chapters on TV, movies, rock, country, music video, and comic strips, but not, for example, on advertising. …