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Ireland and Popular Culture

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Edited By Sylvie Mikowski

This book explores the differences between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures in an Irish context, arguing that these differences require constant revision and redefinition. The volume includes analysis of famous Irish writers such as Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, who are commonly regarded as part of the canon of elite Irish literature but who have either used elements of popular culture in their work, or else occupy a special position in popular culture themselves. Other chapters examine the elusiveness of the boundary between elite and popular culture using objects such as postcards, digital animation, surfing and the teaching of Irish mythology in schools, and demonstrating how this boundary is constantly renegotiated through subversion and parody or through the recycling of folk culture by state institutions. The book also explores the dichotomy between an ‘authentic’ Irish culture, as allegedly exemplified by Irish folklore, mythology, sport and theatre, all of which have been claimed as markers of national identity, and fabricated Irishness, designed to fit commercial or political purposes. The case of Ireland provides a rich and fascinating example of the debates which underlie the study of popular culture around the world today.
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Ruth Alexandra Moran: Please Say Something (2009): Digital Aesthetics and Popular Culture

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← 226 | 227 → RUTH ALEXANDRA MORAN

In this essay I discuss the ground-breaking digital animation Please Say Something (2009),1 made by leading Irish animator David O’Reilly. A work that received considerable international institutional recognition, winning a variety of awards and commendations on the arts, animation and film festival circuits,2 it is marked by a distinctive hybrid aesthetic that is characteristically digital in terms of its facilitating technology, its formal structures, and their conceptual connotations. Given its considerable success within the arts community and industry and its unusual and innovative aesthetic style, it could potentially be misconstrued as an elitist work of art, appealing only to the initiated. However, I argue that this work is resolutely a popular cultural form, in terms especially of this distinctive aesthetic. Expressing the specificities of contemporary digital culture: the fundamental subsumptive operation of digital data that has facilitated our unprecedented access to historic popular cultural forms archived on digital databases and accessed through Internet streaming and download; the proliferation of new ones, due to digital technology’s democratization of the means of media production, distribution and access; and our interaction ← 227 | 228 → with its unique technological substructures upon which an increasing number of our cultural, economic, social and educational transactions now take place, this aesthetic models in various ways the contemporary experience of cultural engagement. Using an aesthetic methodology of analysis whereby the formal aspects of an artwork are critically addressed in order to consider their conceptual implications, both in terms of the...

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