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

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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The cultural treatment of wagelessness and welfare as its potential relief serves as a potent example of how popular culture has long functioned as a site at which American society articulates and negotiates its anxieties. Observing a recent departure from the figure of the “welfare queen” as the privileged site at which anxieties related to welfare are organized, and linking this change to the neoliberal transformations of welfare in the United States introduced by the 1996 reform, this paper adopts a Foucauldian approach to the issue of government in order to set the ground for an analysis of contemporary films which negotiate the conditions of wageless life in what has often been termed a post-welfare society. Looking at Beasts of the Southern Wild and The Florida Project as illustrative of a broader representational trend, this paper examines the role of popular culture in negotiating social changes by exploring the ways in which the two films negotiate dominant discourses of personal responsibility and work opportunity through the newly emergent figure of the “surplus population.”...

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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 article considers the inclusion of the real-life “slash” fandom in the canon storyline of the CW/WB show Supernatural, and the consequent exploration of the taboo idea raised by the fans: of a sexual relationship between its two central characters, who are brothers. By including references to fan fiction, Supernatural opens a space to question normative sexual identity constructs. This article draws on an argument by Michel Foucault that homosexuality is a social construct that emerged as a way to deal with the “problem of male friendship.” In the context of Foucault’s argument, Supernatural’s treatment of its “slash” fan fiction allows for polysemic interpretations of the brothers’ relationship to coexist with the platonic “canon” storyline, opening the door to ideas of sexual fluidity and the “queering” of its characters by fans.Keywords: fan fiction, sexual identity, Foucault, intimatopias, Supernatural Supernatural is an American primetime show centered on a monster-of-the-week mystery format, led by the fictional brothers Sam and Dean Winchester (played by Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles), hunters of supernatural phenomena. In the fourth season, the brothers are in the midst of their usual investigation when they discover a book series that tells their own life story. As they begin to investigate this odd phenomenon, they discover that this book series has fans. Thus, the show’s real-life fandom is integrated into the “canon” storyline. What follows is an immediate reference to “slash” (“The Monster”)....

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