We should begin the course by defining the terms in its title, Popular and Culture. Raymond Williams’s excellent book Keywords gives the etymology and development of these concepts, available on-line here. Your assignment for Thursday is to print out and read these two short articles AND search for an alternate definition of Culture. To make the latter part of the assignment more interesting, you may not use a standard dictionary or wikipedia.
For now, we might adopt a functionalist perspective on popular culture and think about what role it fulfills in society. We can think of pop as a means of escape, as dope, as a space for working out social contradictions such as class conflict, as a kind of dreaming, as pleasure, as a platform for the enunciation of ideas. We should think about what we do when we consume popular culture and how those activities relate to the concepts of leisure and free time. Is pop an autonomous space, an experience which gives us a sense of freedom or of equality (with other consumers of pop)? Or is pop a kind of cul-de-sac, a range of products and practices which effectively contain deeper desires for liberation from the routines of everyday life? These sorts of questions will lead us inevitably to another key concept for the study of popular culture, ideology.