[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]

"Low" culture

Both high culture and low culture are minority cultures. The combined influences of both strains constitute mainstream culture. In this sense, mainstream culture equals culture. The purpose of Jahsonic.com is to demonstrate this thesis.

See also: "body" genres" - bread and circuses - "low" art - lowbrow (American art movement) - working class culture - culture - folk culture - popular culture

Related by connotation: artificial - bad taste - basic instinct - camp - cheap - commercial - conventional - common - derivative - entertaining - ephemera - exploitation - formulaic - low budget - lurid - mass - ordinary - pop - popular - proletariat - prurient - sensationalism - scatology - shocking - stereotype - trash - under-the-counter - underground - vulgar

Contrast: "high" culture

See also: low modernism

In film: B-movies - exploitation films - grindhouse films - paracinema - television - video nasties - violent films

In print: comics - escapist fiction - dime novels - genre fiction - men's magazines - paraliterature - popular fiction - pulp fiction - yellow journalism

In music: disco - house - music hall - popular music - pop music -

In the visual realm: advertising - applied arts - caricature - decorative arts - design - graffiti - kitsch

In performing arts: burlesque - circus - peepshow - striptease - vaudeville -

By genre: adventure - "body" genres - carnival - comedy - horror - melodrama - pornography - romance

Pollice Verso (1872) - Jean-Léon Gérôme


The history of low culture or working class culture can be traced from panem et circenses (bread and circuses) in Roman antiquity, to mass readership starting in the Victorian era (dime novels), music halls in the 19th century, pulp magazines of the 20th century, exploitation films of the second half of the 20th century and video nasties in the 1980s.

There is another strain in the discourse on high/low, which refers to the hierarchy in the visual arts. See low art/high art. [Jul 2005]


Low culture is a derogatory term for popular culture. The term is often encountered in discourses on the nature of culture. Its opposite is high culture. Some culture theorists consider both high culture and low culture to be subcultures.

Kitsch, camp, popular music, escapist fiction and exploitation films are examples of low culture. It has often been stated that in postmodern times, the boundary between high culture and low culture has blurred. See the Kill Bill films of Quentin Tarantino and the 1990s artwork of Jeff Koons for examples of appropriation of low art tropes.

Romanticism was one of the first artistic movements to reappraise "low culture", when previously maligned medieval romances started to influence literature.

Susan Sontag was one of the first essayists to write about the intersection of high and low art in her 1964 essay "Notes on 'Camp'. -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_culture [Aug 2005]

Lowest common denominator

In the context of mass media, the term is commonly used to refer to a target audience. The implication is that the media in question are targeted at the lowest expectations of an audience with a varying range of tastes. In this regard, it is often also used to mean "dumbest people", or those whose tastes match the lowest values of the wider audience. Action movies and most television programming are often considered to be targeted at the lowest common denominator of the population. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lowest_common_denominator [Apr 2005]

Baser instincts

see also: hedonism - instinct - escapism

White trash

White trash (extended: poor white trash) is a racial epithet usually used to describe certain low income caucasians, especially those characterized by crude manners or abnormally low moral standards. According to Oxford English Dictionary, "white trash" first came into common use in the 1830s as an American pejorative used by the slaves of "gentlemen" (rich white Southerners, often plantation aristocrats) against poor Caucasians who worked in the field. The term involves both behavioral characteristics (such as mannerisms, lifestyle) and overt racial characteristics (whiteness). The term is probably used most frequently in the Southeast region of the United States. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_trash [Jun 2005]

Further reading

  • British Low Culture: From Safari Suits to Sexploitation (1998) - Leon Hunt [Amazon.com]

    See entry on British culture for review

  • Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York - Luc Sante [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    See entry on Luc Sante for review

    From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005) - Peter Swirski

    From Lowbrow to Nobrow (2005) - Peter Swirski [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    "From Lobrow to Nobrow" demolishes the elite argument that popular fiction and popular culture are the underside of civilization. In this innovative book, Peter Swirski goes beyond demonstrating that "high-brow" has been transformed to "low-brow," showing that nobrow art is the interactive factor in the relationship between popular art and highbrow art. Swirski begins with a series of groundbreaking questions about the nature of popular fiction, vindicating it as an artform that expresses and reflects the aesthetic and social values of its readers, and not a source of ideological brainwashing or the result of declining literary standards. He follows his insightful introduction to the socio-aesthetics of with a synthesis of the century long debate on the merits of popular fiction and a study of genre informed by analytic aesthetics and game theory. Swirski then turns to three "nobrow" novels that have been largely ignored by critics. Examining the aesthetics of "ascertainment" in Karel ? apek's "War With the Newts," Raymond Chandler's "Playback," and Stanislaw Lem's "Chain of Chance," crossover tours de force, "From Lowbrow to Nobrow" throws new light on the hazards and rewards of nobrow traffic between popular forms and highbrow aesthetics. "I would rank this book among the top five in popular culture studies." Gary Hoppenstand, editor of "The Journal of Popular Culture" and "Popular Fiction: An Anthology"

    See also: popular fiction - nobrow - "low culture"

    High Theory / Low Culture (2005) - Mikita Brottman

    High Theory / Low Culture (2005) - Mikita Brottman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    See entry on High Theory / Low Culture - for review

    your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

    Managed Hosting by NG Communications