Praxes of popular culture

No. 1 - Year 9 - 12/2018

Editorial

Years after the Frankfurt School, Roland Barthes’s work, Laura Mulvey’s film analysis, The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, various essential books and readers on popular culture, countless conferences and gatherings on popular culture that have taken place all over the world, it may seem that trying to point out the importance of popular culture in yet another scholarly journal is mundane. However, certain phenomena prove that this kind of topic is a necessity: the omnipresence of comic-book adaptations – such as the recent Black Panther phenomenon that has many global and local social, cultural, political, and economic implications, not least through the money-making promotions of certain kinds of active citizenship (NGOs’ promoted voter registration in theaters) – or videogame adaptations and rampant sexism and racism in one of the most successful industries of the day, or constant claims about the connection between mental health issues and video games, as well as the ongoing on- and offline struggle to give the neglected, minor voices their representation in popular products, or the timely #MeToo movement that called out Hollywood first and then almost entire creative industries on violence, coercion, and taking advantage over women. Popular culture is an industry as well as a community; it is profitable and it is marginal; it is equally monumental and trivial. The truth behind one of the most analyzed aspects of human culture today shows that it is ever-changing, transformative, that it is one of the most productive praxes for creators and audience alike, and, in the end, that it has important social, cultural, political, and economic effects, simultaneously producing affects and emotionality. ..

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Featuring

The television series Lost uses the motif of time travel to consider the problem of human free will, following the tradition of Humean compatibilism in asserting that human beings possess free will in a deterministic universe. This paper reexamines Lost’s final mystery, the “Flash Sideways” world, presenting a revisionist view of the show’s conclusion that figures the Flash Sideways as an outcome of time travel. By considering the perspectives of observers who exist both within time and outside of it, the paper argues that the characters of Lost changed their destinies, even though the rules of time travel in Lost’s narrative assert that history cannot be changed.Keywords: Lost, time travel, Hume, free will, compatibilismMy purpose in this paper is twofold. First, I intend to argue that ABC’s Lost follows a tradition of science fiction in using time travel to consider the problem of human free will, making an original contribution to the debate by invoking a narrative structure previously unseen in time travel stories. I hope to show that Lost, a television show that became increasingly invested in questions over free will and fate as the series progressed, makes a case for free will in the tradition of Humean compatibilism, asserting that human beings possess free will even in a deterministic world....

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This paper is an attempt to decode the linguistic games in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1962) using corpus linguistics. Stylistic devices will be analyzed through a reference to the dominant metaphors and the ironic tone of the playwright. The playwright invents many linguistic games which have thematic functions; they are meant to parody the American middle-class values and institutions. Fun, verbal battles, guessing games, baby talk, and word-play are used by George and Martha to ensnare their guests in their dysfunctional marriage. I will also refer to the role of deixis in translating the playwright’s lamentation over the transformation of the American motherland into the locus of “ashes.” The bitter reality, the failure of success, and sterility have encouraged the protagonists to move from reality to illusion and to invent a fantasy child who exists linguistically (and not biologically). The aim is to mislead the guests and to validate their unhappy marriage. What is specific about George and Martha is that they insult each other, they blur the boundaries between the private and the public, and they have failed to carry out the functions of a happily united family. Characters will go back to reality at the end of the play; “reality exists at the moment when language stops” (Bigsby 282). In other words, characters will face reality and acquire a realistic vision about their situation when they solve the linguistic enigma. The final goal of the paper is to create an interdisciplinary zone between linguistics and the literary text. ...

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In Our Vampires, Ourselves (1995), Nina Auerbach argues that “[t]here is no such creature as ‘The Vampire,’ there are only vampires” (5). The newest addition to vampire studies, Dracula: An International Perspective (2018), aims at emphasizing the transformative nature of the all-pervading symbol by tracing its evolution from Stoker’s 19th century novel to its present-day (re)presentations. Having, once again, crept from its grave, the vampire reveals itself as the most enduring of all monsters, mutating with each generation of writers. The vampires that populate the papers of the volume illustrate the different ways in which historical and cultural contexts have reimagined Stoker’s archetype. Due to their protean nature, they have managed to escape the confines of literature and infiltrate all media.The volume comprises fifteen papers written by international scholars, along with a framing introduction by Marius-Mircea Cri?an. The volume begins with William Hughes’s discussion on the ongoing controversy concerning the definition of “Irish Gothic.” By emphasizing the mutual exclusivity of the two concepts that constitute the definition, Hughes argues that the triadic canon of the 19th century Irish Gothic (Charles Maturin, Bram Stoker, and Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu) can only be unified by its consistency of professional sophistication. Accordingly, the stylized employment of rhetoric which characterizes the triad points towards the presence of an exceptionally educated and professional authorship (34), which Hughes illustrates by comparing the medical investigation in Le Fanu’s A Glass Darkly (1872) and Stoker’s Dracula (1897). In the following paper, Donatella Abbate Badin analyzes Romances set in Italy (a subgenre of the Irish Gothic) by focusing on Charles Maturin’s novel The Fatal Revenge; or, The Family of Montorio (1807), anonymous novelette The Castle of Savina, or the Irishman in Italy. A Tale (1807), and two short stories written by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. Badin argues that the demonization of Italy in Irish Gothic mirrors the demonization of the Anglo-Irish by the English. Much like the description of Ireland by English writers and of Transylvania by Bram Stoker, the imaginatively constructed spaces of Italy reveal, in Badin’s words, “the inner conflicts of a troubled collective psyche” (48) of the Anglo-Irish. Through focusing on the imagological construction of East-Central Europe in Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, the next paper continues the discussion of imaginary spaces. Lucian-Vasile Szabo and Marius-Mircea Cri?an argue that both Le Fanu and Poe constructed East-Central Europe as haunted, anticipating Stoker’s Dracula. The authors conclude that the two most important aspects of Dracula – a mysterious land which still haunts the collective memory of its readers and the attention to technological innovations – epitomize Poe’s representation of East-Central Europe in his short story “Metzengerstein” (1832). Sam George’s paper, on the other hand, draws a parallel between the two most powerful archetypes of the 19th century – Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula and the Pied Piper, originally published as Die Kinder zu Hameln (1816-1818) by the Brothers Grimm. What ultimately connects the two archetypes is their association with Transylvania and, therefore, their identification as the Other, which is best visible in Robert Browning’s relocation of the Grimms’ myth. Comparing Stoker’s Dracula with F.M. Murnau’s movie Nosferatu (1922), the paper examines the ways in which the Dracula myth has traveled to Germany by revealing the figure of the colonizing Other, present in all of the aforementioned narratives. Through the analysis of Stoker’s notes and sources, Hans Corneel de Roos’ paper aims at dispersing some of ...

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NOTE: Due to a possible editorial conflict of interest the author did not participate in the editing/publishing process of this issue of the journal.When considering the complexity and intricacy of Japanese history, as well as the endless innovation and colorfulness which defined, over the centuries, the development of martial arts in Japan, a potential reader might be a bit skeptical about the ability to pick up just one book and find a clear, well-structured, and informative overview of a large portion of Japanese history. However, Alexander Bennett in his book titled Japan: The Ultimate Samurai Guide manages to do just that. Starting with a somewhat obvious and unavoidable chapter on the actual and metaphoric meaning/value of the samurai, Bennett initiates a narrative journey that, through its approximately 150 pages, never falters in conveying the main issues and pinpointing various crucial historical turning points. By opening with a self-explanatory title to the first chapter – “Who were the Samurai?” – Bennett colloquially dives into the historical intricacies of the Japanese bushi (samurai), initially defined by their elite warrior status, only to become the ruling class of Japan in the period from the 12th to the 19th century. While relying on various illustrations, directly or indirectly related to the subject at hand (a narrative dynamic present through the entire text), the author manages not only to provide a succinct overview of some of the major samurai-era figures and occurrences, but he also enriches the discourse with numerous historical trivia facts, successfully avoiding in such a way the dangers of an overly static historical recount. Perhaps the most interesting segment within this samurai/male-based narrative is the one focusing on the outcasts – women warriors, the ronins (samurais without a “master”), and the popularized and (unnecessarily) mystified ninjas. It is within this segment that the author’s academic and real-life experience comes to life and becomes articulated through a series of verbal sketches which properly contextualize the various mythical and cultural approaches to Japanese history. This analytic tone continues in the following two chapters as well. The strongly titled chapters “Core Concepts of Bushido” and “Killing as an Art Form” necessitate a lighter narrative tone not only due to the attempt to simplify complex philosophical and existential paradigms, but also to more successfully expose the intricate cultural undertones which characterize Japanese martial traditions. Ranging from the highly-ritualized seppuku (ritual suicide) to politics, literature and, finally, to martial arts schools and the aesthetic of death, Bennett touches upon a number of critical moments and concepts, and by doing so, he traces an evolutionary path of the samurai thought all the way up to its modern incarnations. The fourth chapter, “Martial Arts in Japan Today,” summarizes the previously described traditions, folklore, and philosophies into Budo – the martial ways of Japan. Developed around the idea of self-cultivation through discipline and dedicated training, Budo becomes, through the narrative of the author, not only a path to self-perfection but also an educational tool, as well as an active narrative, developed and modernized with the aim of internationally promoting Japan. Although this chapter could mark a logical conclusion to the narrative arc of the book, Bennett opts for two additional chapters titled “Life in a Japanese Dojo” and “Surviving Japan.” It is with these two chapters that the title of the book itself becomes much clearer. Instead of a potentially structurally rigid (although humorous) history lesson, the author reaches for years of his own personal experience in living, training, and working in Japan. The result is a fascinating, although unfortunately brief rundown of rules, traditions, and customs to which a non-Japanese ind...

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