Key Issues in Critical and Cultural Theory

Key Issues in Critical and Cultural Theory

Key Issues in Critical and Cultural Theory

Key Issues in Critical and Cultural Theory

Synopsis

"...the ideal book for students of cultural theory and one that is sensitively attuned to the political challenges of our times. Whether explaining dialectical materialism or the lyrics of Oasis and The Arctic Monkeys, Kate McGowan is an enlightening and entertaining guide." Professor Stephen Regan, Durham UniversityFrom a man with electric underpants, to the indelible mark of 9/11 in a global cultural imaginary, Kate McGowan addresses the questions of cultural meaning and value which confront us all today. The book explores the often complex paradigms of critical thinking and discusses the possibilities of engaging and critiquing the cultural values that relate to our present. Dealing directly with the issues entailed in cultural analysis, the book avoids simply looking at the eminent authors or movements in critical and cultural theory, and instead focuses on why studying culture matters to us today: What are the 'proper' objects of cultural study? What makes something 'art'? What can critical and cultural theory contribute to contemporary debates about ethics? What possibilities are opened up by theories of 'otherness' in thinking about the stranger or outsider in today's society? How does a culture contest its own values - in relation to race, gender, class, sexuality and a variety of faiths and abilities? Key Issues in Critical and Cultural Theoryis key reading for students studying humanities, and for those with an interest in culture, aesthetics, ethics and philosophy who want to understand how these affect the world.

Excerpt

Man uses electric underpants 'to feign heart attack'
www.guardian.co.uk

In October 1999, a man is alleged to have wired a domestic iron to give himself an electric shock and then used an 'amps-in-his-pants' device to convince a hospital heart monitor that he had had a heart attack and that his heart was subsequently beating irregularly. His scheme was uncovered, by hospital staff, and his case came to court on 4 July 2005. It was reported first on The Guardian newspaper website early on 5 July 2005, under the heading quoted above, and then in The Guardian newspaper with the transmuted title of 'Man used electric underpants “to fake heart attack'” later the same day. The man's purpose in all of this was to sue the manufacturers of the product for £300,000 damages (Guardian 2005: 6).

I find this story fascinating, partly because it has a Warner Brothers twist to it where Wile E. Coyote never gets the results he so desperately wants, and partly because it works at so many levels as an index of cultural consciousness not limited to the twenty-first century. It is at once a story of the enterprise of 'the little guy' in the face of the big corporations, and at the same time one of the hapless certainty of the other, demonstrating a popular thirst for the strange and bizarre which confirms the 'normality' of its readers. It's also fascinating as an example of culture's obsession with the uneasy boundaries between what it thinks of as 'real', or 'authentic', and that which distinguishes that real in the form of the 'not real'. To feign is to simulate, while to fake is to copy. Simulation has the effect of producing the thing which it abolishes in order to appear in its place. Copying produces a secondary representation. That the headline slides from 'feign' to 'fake', in the move from electronic text to printed paper, suggests a further anxiety recuperated by producing a sign which has greater potential to arrest the uncertainty generated, albeit unconsciously, by the first. If the man faked the heart attack, then he didn't really have one and the real of the organic body can remain intact. If he feigned it, then it's more complicated, though still, of course, recuperable. The reader has to work harder with the first version than the second. Did the man have a heart attack or not? Was his self-inflicted electric shock any less real than it would have been had it come as a surprise? And, did those 'amps-inhis-pants' really fake the symptoms or actually produce the conditions necessary for a heart attack, and so produce a heart attack like any other?

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.