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FU-BEST 20: Pop Culture: European-American Trends

InstructorDr. Karolina Golimowska
Credit Points5 ECTS / 3 U.S. credits


“Roll over Beethoven and tell Tchaikovsky the news,” roared Chuck Berry in 1956, the drummer banging out an unforgiving back beat, the pianist playing a chaotic boogie, and the double bassist adding buoyancy with a forceful walking bass line. The song, now legendary in rock music history, became a mantra for the global youth culture which positioned pop music and ultimately pop culture in opposition to what back then was considered classics and high culture. This rebellious attitude had different impact on the children of the “Greatest Generation” in suburban United States than it had on post-war Germans in West Germany who, in the words of Wim Wenders, were all-too willing to be culturally colonized, or on British teenagers who appropriated blues, country, rock and skiffle as a means of blurring the borders of a class society. Since Kurt Weill, the German-American composer of The Threepenny Opera made a claim that there is no high or low but only good and bad music, scholars have engaged in a debate about the value of pop culture and about discourses that would be appropriate and productive in addressing it. There is no argument, however, about its significance and influence on the way we live and perceive our respective environments.

This course features a comprehensive analysis of popular culture phenomena with a special focus on European-American trends and mutual influences. We will discuss how popular culture reflects social and political developments in film, music, fiction, poetry and fine arts. We will be addressing the notions and representations of the American Dream, transatlantic perspectives on the American exceptionalism, the pop cultural phenomenon of disaster fantasies and post-apocalyptic scenarios in a transnational perspective.