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2006, May 15; 19:05 ::: The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora (2004) - Irwin Chusid, Jim Flora

The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora (2004) - Irwin Chusid, Jim Flora [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
The first retrospective of one of the defining visual stylists of the 1950s. Vintage music buffs have long been bedazzled by bizarre, cartoonish album covers tagged with the signature "Flora." In the 1940s and '50s, James (Jim) Flora designed dozens of diabolic cover illustrations, many for Columbia and RCA Victor jazz artists. His designs pulsed with angular hepcats bearing funnel-tapered noses and shark-fin chins, who fingered cockeyed pianos and honked lollipop-hued horns. In the background, geometric doo-dads floated willy-nilly like a kindergarten toy room gone anti-gravitational. He wreaked havoc with the laws of physics, conjuring up flying musicians, levitating instruments, and wobbly dimensional perspectives. Yet Flora's wondrous, childlike exuberance was subverted by a sinister tinge of the grotesque. As Flora confessed in a 1998 interview, "I got away with murder, didn't I?"

This is the first collection of the marvelous, mischievous album art of Jim Flora (1914-1998). The book contains most of Flora's known covers (around 50), which command high prices on eBay. The gallery includes rarely seen illustrations and covers from Columbia's new release monthly, "Coda" (1943-1953), and some of Flora's post-WWII commercial magazine work.

The Mischievous Art of Jim Flora also presents the first reprinting of Flora's fabled Little Man Press work (1939-1942). LMP was a small publishing imprint started by literary nutjob Robert Lowry, who recruited Flora as his graphic co-conspirator. Their LMP editions were printed at home in small runs of 125 to 400 copies. These books served as artistic rites of exorcism for Flora, as the budding illustrator's images veered from childish whimsy to disturbing freakishness.

The book encapsulates Flora's life with a biographical profile, interviews, photos, autobiographical reminiscences, and tributes from Alex Steinweiss, Gene Deitch, Shag, R.O. Blechman, Tim Biskup, and others who knew Jim and/or were influenced by him.

Jim Flora (1914-1998) created distinctive and unusual album cover illustrations for RCA Victor and Columbia Records during the 1940s and 1950s.

He also illustrated for Columbia's new release promotional booklet, Coda, from 1943 to 1953, and he did covers and illustrations for numerous magazines, including Fortune, Holiday, Life, Look, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, Park East, Research and Engineering, Sports Illustrated and The Sound.

Between 1955 and 1969, he wrote and illustrated 11 children's books for Harcourt Brace, including Charlie Yup and His Snip-Snap Boys (1959) and Little Hatchy Hen (1969). For Atheneum, between 1972 and 1982, he created six children's books, including Pishtosh, Bullwash, and Wimple (1972) and Stewed Goose (1973). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Flora [May 2006]

See also: artists of the grotesque - sleeve - records - graphic art

2006, May 15; 19:05 ::: In the Groove : Vintage Record Graphics 1940-1960 (1999) - Eric Kohler, Tony Bennett

In the Groove : Vintage Record Graphics 1940-1960 (1999) - Eric Kohler, Tony Bennett [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Amazon.com review
Whaddya know--turns out size does matter. In this stunning collection of album cover art from 1940 to 1960, it is instantly apparent that despite the advantages CDs may have in the technology or convenience departments, vinyl albums--even based on their sheer proportions--have always been way cooler. This is especially true for this particular era, when cover art was truly an art form, with talented designers handcrafting individualized jackets influenced by surrealism, cubism, and modern artists of the day. And as Tony Bennett says in his preface, "they were large enough to make you feel like you were taking home your very own work of art."

Author Eric Kohler, a graphic designer and album cover artist himself, selected these 250 gorgeous covers from his own collection of over 3,000. He offers a captivating history of the early record industry, addressing the invention of the phonograph in 1877, the near demise of the industry due to competition with radio, and the rejuvenating introduction of the jukebox in 1935. Prior to Columbia Records' release of the 33 rpm vinyl LP in 1948, music fans were restricted to 78s--easily breakable, shellac-based records that could only hold four minutes' worth of music on each side. Victor Records made a competitive strike with the 45 (hence turntables with 33, 45, and 78 options), but its success was limited. Until the 1980s, the LP ruled the land with its roomy cardboard cover--a perfect canvas for artists.

Kohler's focus is on the graphic artists themselves--revolutionaries of the industry. Previously, albums had plain covers that advertised phonograph and record companies rather than performers. But when designer Alex Steinweiss entered the scene in 1939 (at the tender age of 23) he changed the business of cover art forever. Kohler illustrates the styles of eight such prominent cover artists--Steinweiss's trademark curly-scrawl script, Jim Flora's cartoonish images recalling Joan Miró and Paul Klee--with such accuracy that readers are able to immediately recognize and differentiate their work. Although the sun shone on these artists for only a brief time (the advent of photographic covers in the late 1950s all but obliterated their influence), these 20 years paint a fascinating portrait of popular music, modern art, and even business development. Best of all, Kohler serves up page after glorious, glossy page of big, beautiful album covers. --Brangien Davis

See also: sleeve - records - graphic art

2006, May 15; 19:05 ::: Tradurre è tradire

"Tradurre è tradire" -- to translate is to betray
There is an old Italian saying: "Traduttore, traditore." It’s a cynical remark; it assumes that the task of translation is hopeless, that you can’t ever properly transmit a work from one culture to another. It may, in the end, be true; but if there must be treason, it does not have to be committed in the first degree, with malice aforethought. --Robert Bethune via http://www.arttimesjournal.com/theater/totranslate.htm [May 2006]

See also: translation - truth

2006, May 15; 19:05 ::: Epiphanal films

Top DVDs: Peeping Tom (1961) - The Intruder (1962) - A Clockwork Orange (1971) - La Grande Bouffe (1973) - Going Places (1974) - Je t'aime moi non plus (1976) - Videodrome (1983) - Blue Velvet (1986) - Audition (1999) - Romance X (1999) - 24 Hour Party People (2002)

Please publish yours.

See also: epiphany - film - greatness - top 100 films

2006, May 13; 19:05 ::: The Mystery of Rampo (1994) - Rintaro Mayuzumi, Kazuyoshi Okuyama

The Mystery of Rampo (1994) - Rintaro Mayuzumi, Kazuyoshi Okuyama [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Plot Synopsis: Edogawa Rampo is a writer whose latest work is censored by the government, deemed too disturbing and injurious to the public to be allowed to be published. However, after burning his drafts, his publisher shows him a newspaper with an account of events just like his forbidden story. As the film progresses, fantasy and reality intermingle in a tale that draws heavily on influences from Poe and Stoker's Dracula. The film's strongly Expressionistic direction skillfully combines a variety of media (animation, computer-generated imagery, grainy black-and-white fast film stock, color negatives) for artistic effect. --via Amazon.com

See also: Edogawa Rampo - Japanese cinema - 1994

2006, May 13; 19:05 ::: Toilet (2004) - Michael Szymczyk

Toilet (2004) - Michael Szymczyk [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Toilet: The Novel is an existentialist novel by Michael Szymczyk about a toilet that was transformed into a man, first published in 2004.

The book is represented as a tribute to the literary works of Franz Kafka, and purported to be the founder of a movement in American literature called neo-existentialism. The book, making reference to existential themes of loneliness and death, explores the social effects of toilets transformed into people that retain the smell of excrement. It has been called, due to its numerous references to the Western intellectual tradition (such as Aeschylus, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer), a novel that embraces the past at the same time it breaks away from it. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toilet:_The_Novel [May 2006]

Michael Szymczyk is the author of Toilet: The Novel.

American novelist and philosopher, known in literary circles as "The Last Existentialist." The Kafkaesque style of his first work, "Toilet: The Novel" won him international recognition as one of the leading figures in the Neo-Existentialism movement in literature. He has also written numerous philosophical works, the most famous being, "On the Law of Insignificance". This work can best be summed up in the following formula, given enough time, everything becomes insignificant. His eccentric behaviour, which has included driving across the United States with a toilet seat around his head and other Dionysian stunts intended to show that, ""one can only live when one lives fully"", are said to have lead to his premature death. He is reported to have died on November 4th, 2004 in a motorcycle accident in Rome, Italy. Some speculate, however, that he faked his own death, in a manner resembling Rimbaud, and is still alive somewhere in Africa. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Szymczyk [May 2006]

See also: metamorphoses - toilet - novel - American literature - 2004

2006, May 13; 19:05 ::: The Great Bath at Bursa (1885) - Jean Léon Gerôme

The Great Bath at Bursa (1885) - Jean Léon Gerôme

See also: Jean Léon Gerôme - 1885 - academic art - French art

2006, May 13; 19:05 ::: Vermeer and photograhic realism

The Little Street (1657-1658) - Jan Vermeer

I'm certainly not the first to notice the almost photographic realism of Vermeer's work but it was Jason Streed who first clued me in on one of the missing pieces in my understanding about this. Vermeer's paintings are so photo-realistic because in a very real sense they actually are photographs. --http://www.laputanlogic.com/articles/2004/04/03-0001.html [May 2006]

Also check this Roman ruins post by laputanlogic.com.

See also: 1600s - 1650s - realism - photography

2006, May 13; 19:05 ::: Realism (2003) - Pam Morris

Realism (2003) - Pam Morris [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
Coming to prominence with the nineteenth-century novel, literary realism has most often been associated with the insistence that art cannot turn away from the more sordid and harsh aspects of human existence. However, because realism is unavoidably tied up with the gnarly concept of 'reality' and 'the real', it has been one of the most widely debated terms in the New Critical Idiom series.

This volume offers a clear, reader-friendly guide to debates around realism, examining:
*ideas of realism in nineteenth-century French and British fiction
*the twentieth-century formalist reaction against literature's status as 'truth'
*realism as a democratic tool, or utopian form.

This volume is vital reading for any student of literature, in particular those working on the realist novel.

See also: realism - literature

2006, May 13; 19:05 ::: Realism (1971) - Linda Nochlin

Realism (1971) - Linda Nochlin [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Realism was a major movement of mid- to late-19th century art, literature, and architecture, and has left a lasting impact on the culture of the 20th and 21st centuries. Before realism, most painting dealt with either historical or allegorical subjects, but afterwards, almost all art has primarily been concerned with contemporary subjects, and allegory is close to unheard of. As Nochlin shows, Realism is not merely a mimetic recreation of what one sees or photo-realism. The Dutch masters and especially Vermeer had produced paintings of great verisimilitude to real life, but they have little in common with 19th century Realism because of the overall social context. --Robert W. Moore via Amazon.com

Setting Realism in its social and historical context, the author discusses the crucial paradox posed by Realist works of art - notably in the revolutionary paintings of Courbet, the works of Manet, Degas and Monet, of the Pre-Raphaelites and other English, American, German and Italian Realists.

See also: realism - visual arts

2006, May 13; 19:05 ::: The Quaker City or the Monks of Monk Hall: A Romance of Philadelphia Life, Mystery, and Crime (1844) - George Lippard

The Quaker City or the Monks of Monk Hall: A Romance of Philadelphia Life, Mystery, and Crime (1844) - George Lippard [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

America's best-selling novel in its time, "The Quaker City", published in 1845, is a sensational expose of social corruption, personal debauchery and the sexual exploitation of women in antebellum Philadelphia. This new edition, with an introduction by David S. Reynolds, brings back into print this important work by George Lippard (1822-1854), a journalist, freethinker and labour and social reformer.

George Lippard (1822-1854) was a brilliant but erratic 19th century American novelist, journalist, and playwright. Although almost completely unknown today, during the decade between 1844 and 1854 he was one of the most widely-read authors in the United States. He befriended Edgar Allan Poe, advocated a socialist political philosophy, was an unheralded writer for the proletariat, and founded a secret benevolent society, Brotherhood of the Union, investing in it all the trappings of a religion. He was author of two types of stories. The first were tales about the immorality of large cities, gothic stories of horror, vice, and debauchery, such as The Monks of Monk Hall (1844), reprinted as The Quaker City (1844), and New York: Its Upper Ten and Lower Million (1853). The other stories were historical fiction of a type called romances, such as Blanche of Brandywine (1846), Legends of Mexico (1847), and the popular Legends of the Revolution (1847). Both kinds of stories, sensational and immensely popular when written, are mostly forgotten today. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Lippard [May 2006]

See also: monk - Gothic novel - American literature - 1844

2006, May 13; 19:05 ::: Cityscapes of Modernity: Critical Explorations (2001) - David Frisby

Cityscapes of Modernity: Critical Explorations (2001) - David Frisby [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
The modern metropolis has been one of the crucial sites for the exploration of modernity since at least the mid-nineteenth century. In this new volume, David Frisby provides an original and critical examination of the construction and experience of metropolitan modernity. Drawing on a rich variety of sources, Frisby seeks to reveal some key features of metropolitan experience in modernity. Among the issues examined are Benjamin's account of the flâneur and its relevance for social investigation and urban detection; Simmel's influential essay on the metropolis; contrasting interpretations of fin-de-siècle Berlin and Vienna by Sombart; the work of Otto Wagner; and the response to the modern metropolis as highlighted in German Expressionism and Weimar Berlin. Cityscapes of Modernity will be a valuable text for students of sociology, social theory, urban theory, cultural studies and architectural history, as well as all those interested in the urban culture of modernity.

First Sentence:
Any investigation of the flaneur in social theory must commence with the contribution of Walter Benjamin towards a history and analytic of this ambiguous urban figure, whose existence and significance was already announced a century earlier by Baudelaire and others.

See also: modernism - Paris - city

2006, May 13; 19:05 ::: Vidocq (2001) - Pitof

Vidocq (2001) - Pitof [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Vidocq is a 2001 movie, directed by Pitof, that pits the historical figure Eugène François Vidocq (played by Gérard Depardieu) against a supernatural soul-stealing monster called The Alchemist. It is notable as being the first major science fiction film to be shot entirely on digital film. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vidocq [May 2006]

Eugène François Vidocq (July 23, 1775 – May 11, 1857) was a French criminal who later became the first director of Sûreté Nationale and one of the first modern private investigators. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Fran%C3%A7ois_Vidocq [May 2006]

As for Poe, Julian Symons went so far as to say, "He had read Vidocq, and it is right to say that if the Mémoires had never been published Poe would never have created his amateur detective [C. Auguste Dupin]." --http://www.strandmag.com/vidoq.htm [May 2006]

The sole inspiration for Poe's Dupin appears to be derived not from any fictitious figure, but rather from a real-life Frenchman named Eugene Francois Vidocq (1775-1857). --http://www.bookrags.com/notes/poe/PART18.htm [May 2006]

Vidocq's legendary crime-solving reputation was also lauded in Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue and in Herman Melville's Moby Dick. The fugitive in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations was also inspired by Vidocq's real-life exploits. --http://www.vidocq.org/vidocq.html [May 2006]

See also: 2001 - detective - science fiction film - Gerard Depardieu - French cinema

2006, May 13; 19:05 ::: Fifty Fantasy & Science Fiction Works That Socialists Should Read

By China Miéville
January 23, 2002

This is not a list of the “best” fantasy or SF. There are huge numbers of superb works not on the list. Those below are chosen not just because of their quality—which though mostly good, is variable—but because the politics they embed (deliberately or not) are of particular interest to socialists. Of course, other works—by the same or other writers—could have been chosen: disagreement and alternative suggestions are welcomed. I change my own mind hour to hour on this anyway. http://www.fantasticmetropolis.com/i/50socialist/full/ [May 2006]

The Wandering Jew (1844) - Eugene Sue

Huge book by radical socialist Sue, about the adventures of the family of the Wandering Jew of legend. Symbolic fantasy elements: the Jew is the dispossessed laborer and his partner is downtrodden woman. Marx hated Sue as a writer (not without reason—less, for Sue, is not in more) but hell, it’s an important book.

The Wandering Jew (1844) - Eugene Sue [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Wandering Jew
The Wandering Jew is a figure from Christian folklore, a Jewish man who, according to legend, taunted Jesus on the way to the Crucifixion and was then cursed to walk the earth until the Second Coming. The exact nature of the wanderer's indiscretion varies in different versions of the tale, as do aspects of his character; sometimes he is said to be a shoemaker or other tradesman, sometimes he is the doorman at Pontius Pilate's estate, and presumably a Roman rather than a Jew.

When some interpreters see the "wandering Jew" as a metaphorical personification of the Jewish diaspora, the subtext that links the two is that the destruction of Jerusalem was in retribution for Jewish responsibility for the Crucifixion. A more allegorical view claims instead that the "wandering Jew" personifies any individual who has been made to see the error of his wickedness, if the mocking of the Passion epitomizes the callousness of mankind toward the suffering of human beings.

The Wandering Jew in literature
The figure of the doomed sinner, forced to wander without the hope of rest in death till the millennium, impressed itself upon the popular imagination, mainly with reference to the seeming immortality of the wandering Jewish people. These two aspects of the legend are represented in the different names given to the central figure. In German-speaking countries he is referred to as "Der Ewige Jude" (the immortal, or eternal, Jew), while in Romance-speaking countries he is known as "Le Juif Errant" and "L'Ebreo Errante"; the English form, probably because derived from the French, has followed the Romance. The Spanish name is Juan Espera en Dios, "John [who] waits for God", or, more commonly, "El Judío Errante". --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wandering_Jew [May 2006]

Eugene Sue wrote his Juif Errant in 1844

Eugène Sue's Le Juif Errant (The Wandering Jew) is a serially published novel, which attained incredible popularity in all of Paris, and beyond. Its publication, and that of its predecessor Les Mystères de Paris, single-handedly increased the circulation of the magazines in which they were published, influenced legislation on the Jesuits, and caused a general "jesuitophobie". The novel is over 800 pages long. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Juif_Errant [May 2006]

See also: Jew - fantastic fiction - science fiction books - Eugène Sue - Karl Marx

2006, May 12; 19:05 ::: Babylon or New Jerusalem? Perceptions of the City in Literature (2005) - Valeria Tinkler-Villani

Babylon or New Jerusalem? Perceptions of the City in Literature (2005) - Valeria Tinkler-Villani [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
Today more than ever literature and the other arts make use of urban structures – it is in the city that the global and universal joins the local and individual. Babylon or New Jerusalem? Perceptions of the City in Literature draws a map of the concept of the city in literature and represents the major issues involved. Contributions to the volume revisit cities such as the London of Wordsworth, Dorothy Richardson and Virginia Woolf or Rilke’s Paris, but also travel to the politics of power in Renaissance theatre at Ferrara and to deliberate urban erasures in post-apartheid South Africa. The texts represented range from Renaissance plays to contemporary novels and to poetry from various periods, with references to the visual arts, including film. The role of memory in contemplating the city and also specific urban metaphors developed in literature, such as boxing – the square ring – and jazz are also discussed. The transformation of cities by legislation on cemeteries, by lighting or by projects of urban renewal are the subject of articles, while others reflect on images of the city in worlds specifically forged by writers like William Blake and James Thomson. The contributors themselves live and work in many varied cities, thus representing a dynamic and real variety of critical approaches, and introducing a strong theoretical and comparative element.

Chapter 18 Sara JAMES : Eugène Sue, G.W.M. Reynolds, and the Representation of the City as “Mystery”

See also: Babylon - mystery - 1800s literature - city

2006, May 12; 19:05 ::: The Mysteries of Paris and London: Victorian Literature (1992) - Richard Maxwell

The Mysteries of Paris and London: Victorian Literature (1992) - Richard Maxwell [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

From the back cover
In this ambitious and exciting work Richard Maxwell uses nineteenth-century urban fiction--particularly the novels of Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens--to define a genre, the novel of urban mysteries. His title comes from the "mystery mania" that captured both sides of the channel with the runaway success of Eugene Sue's Les mysteres de Paris and G. W. M. Reynold's Mysteries of London. Richard Maxwell argues that within these extravagant but fact-obsessed narratives, the archaic form of allegory became a means for understanding modern cities. The city dwellers' drive to interpret linked the great metropolises with the discourses of literature and art (the primary vehicles of allegory). Dominant among allegorical figures were labyrinths, panoramas, crowds, and paperwork, and it was thought that to understand a figure was to understand the city with which it was linked. Novelists such as Hugo and Dickens had a special flair for using such figures to clarify the nature of the city. Maxwell draws from an array of disciplines, ideas, and contexts. His approach to the nature and evolution of the mysteries genre includes examinations of allegorical theory, journalistic practice, the conventions of scientific inquiry, popular psychiatry, illustration, and modernized wonder tales (such as Victorian adaptations of the Arabian Nights). In The Mysteries of Paris and London Maxwell employs a sweeping vision of the nineteenth century and a formidable grasp of both popular culture and high culture to decode the popular mysteries of the era and to reveal man's evolving consciousness of the city. His style is elegant and lucid. It is a book for anyone curious about the fortunes of the novel in thenineteenth century, the cultural history of that period, particularly in France and England, the relations between art and literature, or the power of the written word to produce and present social knowledge.

See also: mystery - 1800s literature - city

2006, May 12; 19:05 ::: The Three Musketeers (1844) - Alexandre Dumas père

The Three Musketeers (1844) - Alexandre Dumas père[Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

In March 1844 the French magazine Le Siecle, printed the first installment of a story by Alexandre Dumas. It was based, Dumas claimed, on some manuscripts he had found a year earlier in the Bibliotheque Nationale while researching a history he planned to write on Louis XIV.

Alexandre Dumas, père, born Dumas Davy de la Pailleterie (July 24, 1802 – December 5, 1870) was a French writer, best known for his numerous historical novels of high adventure which have made him the most widely read French author in the world. Many of his novels, including The Count of Monte Cristo and the D'Artagnan Romances, were serialized, and he also wrote plays, magazine articles, and was a prolific correspondent. His paternal grandmother was a black slave. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexandre_Dumas [May 2006]

A historical novel is a novel in which the story is set among historical events, or more generally, in which the time of the action predates the lifetime of the author. As such, the historical novel is distinguished from the alternate-history genre. The historical novel was popularized in the 19th century by artists classified as Romantics. Many regard Sir Walter Scott as the first to have used this technique, in his novels of Scottish history such as Waverley (1814) and Rob Roy (1818). His Ivanhoe (1820) gains credit for renewing interest in the Middle Ages. Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1831) furnishes another early example of the historical novel. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_novels [May 2006]

See also: adventure novel - 1840s - 1844 - serial fiction - popular fiction

2006, May 12; 19:05 ::: Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera (1997) - Jennifer Hayward

Consuming Pleasures: Active Audiences and Serial Fictions from Dickens to Soap Opera (1997) - Jennifer Hayward [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

"To be continued...". Whether these words fall at the end of The Empire Strikes Back or a TV commercial flirtation between coffee-loving neighbors, true fans find them impossible to resist. Ever since the 1830s, when Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers enticed a mass market for fiction, the serial has been a popular means of snaring avid audiences.

In Consuming Pleasures Jennifer Hayward establishes serial fiction as a distinct genre -- one defined by the activities of its audience rather than by the formal qualities of the text. Ranging from installment novels, mysteries, and detective fiction of the 1800s to the television and movie series, comics, and advertisements of the twentieth century, serials are loosely linked by what may be called, after Wittgenstein, "family resemblances". These traits include intertwined subplots, diverse casts of characters, dramatic plot reversals, suspense, and such narrative devices as long-lost family members and evil twins.

Hayward chooses four texts -- Dicken's novel Our Mutual Friend (1864-65), Milton Caniff's comic strip Terry and the Pirates (1934-46), and the soap operas All My Children (1970-) and One Life to Live (1968) -- to represent the evolution of serial fiction as a genre, and to analyze the peculiar draw serials have upon their audiences.

Although the serial has enjoyed great marketplace success, traditional literary and social critics have denounced its ties to mass culture, claiming it preys upon passive fans. But Hayward argues that active serial audiences have developed identifiable strategies of consumption, such as collaborative reading and attempts to shape the production process. --from the publisher

Gramsci admits that early nineteenth-century serializers such as Eugene Sue, Alexandre Dumas, and George Sand still produced “literature”; ; presumably Dickens also would have been included in this select group. --page 7

But he sees serial quality as declining over the course of the century, until by the 1900s, when the “modern serial novel begins,” it “nearly always has a most banal form and a stupid content. Now it is a lachrymose literature only suitable for stupefying the women, girls and youngsters who feed on it. It is also often a source of corruption. ... It may perhaps have influenced the increase in crime among adolescent loafers... In short, the serial novel has become a rather nauseating commodity (36).

And he goes on to assign responsibility for this decline across the entire cultural apparatus: to the audience, “which often has abominable tastes”; to “the authors, who for speculation open shops for novels as one would open a haberdasher's”; and to “the newspaper editors, full of prejudices and and eager to sell their papers at any cost. --page 7

See also: Antonio Gramsci - serial fiction - popular fiction

2006, May 12; 19:05 ::: Gramsci on popular literature

Gramsci had borrowed many commercially successful novels from the prison library during his thirteen-month period of incarceration in Milan in 1927-28, and in a letter to Tania of 22 April 1929 he explained that they became interesting

'if one looked at them from the following angle: why are these books always the most read and the most frequently published? What needs do they satisfy and what aspirations do they ful fill? What emotions and attitudes emerge in this squalid literature, to have such wide appeal? (LP, p. 145).


Thus a map of popular taste in Italy as a whole in the 1930s, such as Gramsci, writing in prison, could only tentatively sketch out in these notes, revealed different strata reflecting the intervention of different and discontinuous histories in different regional areas.

Gramsci's purpose in mapping popular taste in this way was not to produce a static descriptive picture but rather to explore the relations between dominant and subaltern cultural forms in dynamic terms, as they act upon each other historically.just as folklore contains the sediments of earlier dominant cultures that have seeped down into subaltern cultures, so Gramsci sees in the popular literature of rural areas residues of earlier dominant literary forms (like romances of chivalry) and scientific conceptions of the world. By a converse process, he sees popular cultural forms being 'raised' into the dominant 'artistic' literature. For instance Dostoyevsky 'passes through' popular serial fiction in order to draw materials for writing artistic fiction. This latter process interests Gramsci because of its bearing on the question of how a dominated class can become hegemonic. As he writes in the note on Paul Nizan (115), die essential task is to create a body of writers who can be to the serial novel what Dostoyevsky was to the popular fiction on which he drew. These writers would have to be linguistically accessible - in other words they would have to reject that elaborate Italian that currently passed for good style - and they would have to draw their audience from the existing popular reading public for serial fiction. Gramsci clearly has in mind, in some cases at least, writers of 'left books': he cites as models Giovagnoli's nineteenth - century novel about Spartacus and collections of social poetry. --http://www.arts.auckland.ac.nz/online/ITALIAN333/poplit.html [May 2006]

The term “hegemony” can be traced to the Italian philosopher, Antonio Gramsci, who used the term to mean “manufactured consent” – that is, a kind of social coercion exerted by one class over another via its cultural forms. Gramsci was particularly fascinated by the hegemonic culture forms of the 19th century – newspapers, serial novels, the theatre – those culture forms dependent upon widespread literacy and improvements in the technologies of mechanical reproduction.[2] These culture forms, developed largely by the bourgeois (middle classes), function to exert control over the “popular classes.” --http://chnm.gmu.edu/ematters/issue8/patterson/pt1pg1web.htm [May 2006]

See also: Eugéne Sue - Antonio Gramsci - popular fiction

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