The Myth of Popular Culture: From Dante to Dylan
December 2009, Wiley-Blackwell
- A stimulating history of high and low culture from Dante Alighieri to Bob Dylan, providing a controversial defence of popular culture
- Seeks to rebut the durable belief that only high culture is ‘dialectical’ and popular culture is not by turning Theodor Adorno’s theories on ‘pop’ against themselves
- Presents a critical analysis of three popular traditions: the American novel, Hollywood, and British and American rock music
- Offers an original account of Bob Dylan as an example of how the distinction between high and low culture is highly problematic
- A provocative book for any student, scholar or general reader, who is interested in popular culture
Part I "The Battle of the Brows"
1. A History of High and Low
"Highbrow," "Lowbrow," "Middlebrow"
"Folk" and "Soul"
"General Converse": Johnson and the Long Eighteenth Century
"Similitude in Dissimilitude"
Keats and Mediocrity
Culture and Anarchy in the UK
"The Battle of the Brows"
The Myth of Popular Culture
2. Pop Culture in the Spectator
Poems of the People
Canons and "Camp"
Base and Superstructure, Soma and Psyche
3. Pop and Postmodernism
The Social Self
"Hey, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair"
Part II Dialectics of Pop
4. The Death of Kings: American Fiction from Cooper to Chandler
"Paleface" and "Redskin," Cowboy and Dandy
Pathfinding: Cooper and Mark Twain
Labor, Leisure, Love: Melville, James, Hemingway
Transatlantic: Raymond Chandler
5. Knock on Any Door: Three Histories of Hollywood
Ars Gratia Artis
Benjamin, Bazin, Eisenstein
Dialectics of Directing: Hawks, Welles, Scorsese
Dialectics of Acting: Barrymore, Bogart, Brando
Blonde on Blonde: Harlow and Monroe
Hang ’Em High: Welles, Lewis, Eastwood
6. The Blues Misreading of Gospel: A History of Rock and Roll
A Scandal in Bohemia
Jazz Myth, Jazz Reality
Buddy Holly and the British Invasion
The Body English
Part III The World of Bob Dylan
7. Dylan and the Critics
The Limits of Typology
Dylan as Poet
8. Words and Music
"Slippin’ and Slidin’"
Dylan and Deferred Action
9. Dylan Himself
The Death of the Author
The Grand Tour and the Middle Passage
10. The Three Icons: Sinatra, Presley, Dylan
Iconography and Gender
The Fedora as Phallus
Elvis as Bobbysoxer
"My Darling Young One"
“Perry Meisel has written a boundary-smashing critique of the myth that popular culture is distinct from and inferior to the fine arts.”
—Richard Goldstein, Hunter College of the City University of New York
"... stunning in its originality, breadth, erudition, and in its understanding of the transatlantic evolution of popular culture."
—Josephine G. Hendin, New York University