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Reading Popular Culture



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Reading Popular Culture is an economical Penguin Academics#xA0;thematic reader exploring a full range of topics in the field of contemporary popular culture from a variety of theoretical perspectives. #xA0; This book takes up the most important general questions that arise from our immersion in the culture of everyday life: why do the artifacts of popular culture, such as certain movies or websites, appeal to us, and what effect does our engagement with each of these phenomena have on us?#xA0; Chosen for both their theoretical and rhetorical approaches, the selections in Reading Popular Culturewill challenge and engage instructors and students alike.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1:  Introduction


Chapter 2:  Technology

"Beyond Borders," Robert Samuels

"The Judgment of Thamus," Neil Postman


On your phone

“Thumbspeak,” Louis Menand

“When texting is wrong,” Randy Cohen

“How to recognize the future when it lands on you,” Howard Rheingold

“Always-On, Always-On-You,” Sherry Turkle


Chapter 3:  Music

On hip-hop and indie rock

“5 Things that Killed Hip-Hop,” J-Zone

“Miseducation of Hip Hop,” Jamilah Evelyn


Independent Rock: a casebook

“A Paler Shade of White:  How indie rock lost its soul,” Sasha Frere-Jones

“The Trouble with Indie Rock,” Carl Wilson


“Brainworms, Sticky Music, and Catchy Tunes,” Oliver Sacks

“Music in the Meltdown,” David Hadju


Chapter 4:  Advertising

“Advertising's fifteen basic appeals,” Jib Fowles

“How advertising informs to our benefit,” John Calfee 

“New info shoppers,” Mark Penn

“Shopper,” Stephen Baker


On brands and branding

“The Brand Expands,” Naomi Klein

“The Decline of Brands,” James Surowiecki


Chapter 5:  Television

“TV addiction is no mere metaphor,” Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

“Watching TV makes you smarter,” Stephen Johnson

“Gin, television, and social surplus,” Clay Shirky


On reality TV

“Reality check,” Eric Jaffe

“Singing for fame, fortune, or just attention,” Richard M. Huff

“Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: An American Fairy Tale,” Gareth Palmer


Chapter 6: Movies

“The Way We Are,” Sydney Pollack

“Film Criticism in Review,” Richard Schickel

“Why We Crave Horror Movies,” Stephen King.

“Dead Man Still Walking: Explaining the Zombie Renaissance,” Kyle Bishop.


On romantic comedy in the new millennium

“A Fine Romance,” David Denby

“Where have all the good women gone?” Kira Cochrane


Chapter 7:  Sports and Games

“Champion of the World,” Maya Angelou

“Sports: A Variety of Religious Experience,” Michael Mandelbaum

“Working Out: Consumers and the Culture of Exercise,” Barbara J. Phillips

“Fixing Kids’ Sports,” Peter Cary, Randy Dotinga, and Avery Comarow

“The Meaning of Life,” Jill Lepore

“The Search for Marvin Gardens,” John McPhee

“The Chess Master and the Computer,” Garry Kasparov       


Chapter 8:  Popular Reading


 “Twilight of the Books,” Caleb Crain

 “J.K. Rowling's Ministry of Magic,” Stephen King

 “Talk to the Animals,” Laura Miller

 “What Girls Want,” Caitlin Flanagan


On cartoons, comics, and pictographs

 “Reading Peanuts: The Secular and the Sacred,” Stephen J. Lind

 “Superhero Comicbooks,” Mila Bongco

 “Reading Pictographs as Popular Culture Guidebooks,” John Catalini



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