Monday, March 21, 2005

March Marches On

For me March marks the beginning of a new semester. I took a two-month hiatus from blogging to write a few papers--two important ones really. One was on American Studies, and the other on Popular Culture. The interesting one, to my mind, was the one on popular culture. I took a number of the important ideas from John Leland's recent book Hip: The History, which I strongly recommend you read. It got to the point, last semester, where the reading journal and the paper writing collapsed upon each other, so I never really documented my reading informally. Check out the link above. Leland, a popular music critic who's written for Rolling Stone, among others, has traced the construct of hip as a series of intersections between Black and White cultures. Rather than oversimplifying it with the sort of binary approach that the white man stole the blues from the black man (which approximates his words -- I liked the book so much, I think I probably plagiarize it at this point without even opening it), Leland traces the concept of hip to racial crossovers and boundaries, connecting, for example, the minstrelsy to jazz and the blues to gangsta rap to white rappers like Eminem. Another book, Wayne Munsen's All Talk about the talkshow in media culture, helped me to draw the connection between amusement parks like Coney Island and the 1990s versions of the talkshow (as well as the more current ones)--but from that I could also connect that to the idea of schadenfreude in present-day reality programs such as American Idol. I think the paper is really pretty decent, actually.

I developed a progress report for my doctoral committee that tells what I've been up to for the last semester. It has links to all my papers for the semester. Insomniacs, click here.

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