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Revisiting Style in Literary and Cultural Studies

Interdisciplinary Articulations

Edited By Jasmin Herrmann, Moritz Ingwersen, Björn Sonnenberg-Schrank and Olga Ludmila Tarapata

The collected volume brings together leading scholars from a broad range of disciplines in the humanities to interrogate the productivity of style as an element of cultural expression and a parameter of cultural analysis. Despite its ubiquity in examinations of artistic singularity or postulations of epochal patterns, style remains a notoriously elusive concept. Suspicious of monolithic definitions, the contributions assembled in this volume address style from a multiplicity of methodological and conceptual angles, drawing from fields that include literary studies, film and media studies, post-structuralist philosophy, philosophy of science, and American cultural studies.

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15 And Things Were Looking Like a Movie: Suburban Chic and the 1980s


Abstract: The American suburbs are most often conceived of as a post-World War II phenomenon: planned idylls constructed to house returning war veterans. The idea of the suburbs as a space shaped principally by the normative mores of the 1950s and early 1960s has been sedimented by writers such as John Cheever and Richard Yates as well as by television shows such as Leave it To Beaver and Dennis the Menace. But this view occludes another, later phase of suburban style—one that depends less on norms and more on their disruption. This essay investigates cultural and literary representations of the suburbs from the 1980s in order to articulate an aesthetic that I call “post-modern suburban chic.” No longer seen as a wholly conservative space, the suburbs in the 1980s become the site of alternative youth culture and unruly aesthetics. Alongside films such as Heathers and Suburbia, I consider music by The Talking Heads and The Pet Shop Boys. This essay does not simply to illustrate how the suburbs engender forms of subversion and rebellion, but to suggest that in the 1980s, the normative dimensions of suburbia themselves become fashionable.

Keywords: Suburbs, 1980s, Teenagers, Pop music, Music Video, Teen Films, Post-modernism, Normativity, Rebellion

In the liner notes for their “Best of” collection, Talking Heads’ front man David Byrne explains his inspiration for the 1985 song “And She Was:”

I used to know a blissed-out hippie-chick in Baltimore. She once told me that...

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