21/2 – Pop vs. Culture

Module Leader:
Dalma Tímea Szentpály
2021-2022 Autumn
Immersion 2
Arts and Humanities

Who decides what is high culture, and what is popular culture? Does a cultural product have less value because of its medium?

Consider this; we are living in the so-called “Golden Age of Television,” such well-known, and critically acclaimed auteurs of film-making as David Fincher, Jane Campion, or Spike Lee are now directing to a platform that they never would have considered a decade ago. In the 80’s and 90’s movies could be art, television was considered popular culture, and thus less worthy of artistic expression by default. Now, television is giving chance to new voices, and breaking artistic ground while making Netflix one of the most lucrative companies in the world.

Could something be high culture if it is popular? Does popularity make a cultural product worthy of critical attention?

Take the example of the poet, Rupi Kaur, many consider her the new face of literature. However, her poems first appeared on Instagram. Now, she has more than 4 million followers, and the printed copies of her volumes of poetry have been translated into 25 languages.

The aim of this module is to give students the necessary tools to explore these and similar questions and be able to analyze cultural texts regardless of their medium in a wider sociological, aesthetic, and theoretical context. With the assistance of some of the oldest tropes of storytelling, we will be exploring some of the most important questions of Film and Media Studies, Social Anthropology, Literary Criticism, and Gender Studies.

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