Popular Culture: An Introduction

Popular Culture: An Introduction

Popular Culture: An Introduction

Popular Culture: An Introduction


From Madonna and drag queens to cyberpunk and webzines, popular culture constitutes a common and thereby critical part of our lives. Yet the study of popular culture has been condemned and praised, debated and ridiculed. In Popular Culture: An Introduction, Carla Freccero reveals why we study popular culture and how it is taught in the classroom.

Blending music, science fiction, and film, Freccero shows us that an informed awareness of politics, race, and sexuality is essential to any understanding of popular culture. Freccero places rap music, the Alien Trilogy and Sandra Cisneros in the context of postcolonialism, identity politics, and technoculture to show students how they can draw on their already existing literacies and on the cultures they know in order to think critically.

Complete with a glossary of useful terms, a sample syllabus and extensive bibliography, this book is the concise introduction to the study of popular culture.


This book evolved from a course I first taught for the comparative literature program at Dartmouth College in the summer of 1992 and subsequently taught twice more in the literature department at the University of California, Santa Cruz; a representative syllabus is included in the appendix. These two contexts differed vastly, as one might expect. Dartmouth College is an elite, conservative, small, rural liberal arts college, whereas UCSC is a larger public research university in the University of California system known for its progressive, if not radical, ethos. Dartmouth might be seen to be on the front lines of the war against political correctness, while UCSC might be seen to be PC’s main stronghold (words in boldface are defined in the glossary). Both institutions value excellent undergraduate teaching and hold their faculty to high standards of performance in the area of pedagogy, yet each institution requires that a very different sort of pedagogy be developed.

When I taught the course at Dartmouth, I kept in mind a horizon of conservative response to the materials and ideas I presented and was careful to make my points concerning U.S. ideology through close readings of texts, videos, and films, in order to demonstrate the ways these materials “spoke” their meanings, rather than give the impression that I was a liberal preacher imposing leftist political significance or judgment onto a text. For Dartmouth students, popular culture was a domain of degraded culture: it was not the culture they were there to learn, even if it was their culture. They thus provided me with the ideal opportunity to argue the case for the importance of . . .

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