This spring, Clark University’s Higgins School of Humanities is exploring the glitzy and glamorous, retro and campy, catchy, annoying, or simply bewildering phenomena of pop culture.
“We love what we love. We can’t help it — guilty pleasures, stylish schlock, the tunes we can’t get out of our head, the TV shows we binge,” writes Meredith Neuman, director of the Higgins School. “Popular culture is driven as much by a taste for the new and surprising as by the need for the familiar and comforting. It suggests the fluidity between high and low art, the substantive and the frivolous. Pop culture also can provide a critical reflection of society, producing insight and dialogue. It can create new worlds, inviting us to imagine radical alternatives and to speculate ‘what if?’ ”
An exhibition of work by photographer Brian Ulrich, “Magic Lanterns,” opened Feb. 20 and will be on view in the Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons through April 26. The photos, portraying contemporary consumer culture, draw from a larger project, The Centurion, which explores growing economic disparity and the resulting social, economic, and psychological effects that result when luxury and wealth become preeminent definitions of success.
Upcoming events in “Pop Cultures” include:
The ongoing debate about the ethics of impersonating black people has been framed in terms of offense and appropriation. But are there aspects of blackface that are submerged and even protected by this framing? Miles Grier, of CUNY Queens College, will draw on a catalog of 16th- and 17th-century stage moors to argue that early modern blackface did its most important work not by creating negative images of Africans, but by treating blackness as an ink or transferable mark. Black characters either were afforded credibility or treated as something for others to study; blackface produced a white interpretive community authorized to assess black character in its textual and embodied forms, an aspect of racial hierarchy that is both older and more fundamental than mockery, and which produced injustices that far surpass the stakes of cultural appropriation.
This event continues the Roots of Everything, a lecture series sponsored by Early Modernists Unite (EMU) — a faculty collaborative bringing together scholars of medieval and early modern Europe and America — in conjunction with the Higgins School of Humanities. Additional co-sponsors include the Center for Gender, Race, and Area Studies; the departments of English and History; and the Theatre Arts program.
Since its launch in July 2016, Kate Wagner’s blog McMansion Hell has become an internet and media sensation. The site uses cutting humor and actual real estate listings to roast “the world’s ugliest houses” from top to bottom, all while teaching subscribers about principles of architecture and design. But what exactly is a McMansion? How did these oversized and poorly crafted dwellings evolve — and what are the aesthetic, economic, social, and environmental implications of their ongoing popularity? In this lecture, Wagner will examine the architectural and pop cultural roots of this pervasive feature in the American suburban landscape.
Drug delirium, groovy fashion, religious cults, mega corporations, glitzy glam, hard rock, global unrest — from our 2019 perspective, the 1970s are often remembered as a bizarre blur of bohemianism and disco. Weaving musical excerpts with readings from his latest book, Pick Up the Pieces, writer, curator, and producer John Corbett will take us through a curated playlist of the varied musical scene of the ’70s (rock, disco, pop, soul, jazz, folk, and funk), creating a panoramic view of the era through cultural observation, music criticism, and personal insight.
This event is co-sponsored by the Higgins School of Humanities; the English Department; and the Music program.