Re: RARA-AVIS: How does this definition sound?

From: Mark Sullivan (
Date: 14 Jun 2001

FZ wrote:

"Usually I teach that "popular culture is traditional middle class culture in a carnival atmosphere." By the same token, popular fiction puts traditional middle class culture on trial in a carnival setting.
(Surprisingly enough, those traditional middle class values are acquited.)"

One thing that fascinates me is when you add the historical element to this process, how books or music or movies can rise or fall on the respectability scale. Dickens went from being a pulp writer of his day, writing longer to get paid for more words, to being the exemplar of Victorian literature. Chandler and Hammett (and a few more recent crime writers, although they're still defined as crime writers, rightly in my book, and that's not meant as an insult) went from the pulps of their days to being compiled by the Library of America. Or, as Mario pointed out, jazz has gone from its birth in whorehouses to representing the US overseas and on to being hailed by PBS. (By the way, Mario, are you saying your library has pre-Chess recordings by Howlin' Wolf? I'm impressed.)


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