Sylvie Mikowski: Introduction
← viii | 1 → SYLVIE MIKOWSKI
Even though it has for decades featured as a regular subject in academic curricula across universities in English-speaking countries, the study of popular culture has not yet been wholly recognized as a proper field of research in some European countries, particularly in France. This may seem all the more surprising as much of the theoretical background from which popular culture scholars have drawn their inspiration originates with French authors like Roland Barthes, Michel de Certeau or Michel Foucault. The suspicion surrounding the study of popular culture in France may stem from the long-held belief that the subject should not be taken seriously, a contention that also lies at the heart of the debate over the value and interest of popular culture which has been going on for centuries. Indeed, ever since Matthew Arnold defined culture as ‘the best that has been thought and said in the world’,1 claiming that only ‘high’ culture could save society from anarchy, some critics have argued that popular culture only tends to debase, corrupt and destroy all that is good and beautiful. Others have claimed on the other hand that ‘high’ culture is only an artificially-constructed territory jealously guarded by a privileged elite who creates and promotes aesthetic standards so as to better secure its superiority and domination over the lower, supposedly uncultivated and vulgar classes. Popular culture was often stigmatized under the derogatory name of ‘mass culture’, which in the eyes of cultural critics such as F.R....
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