Revisiting the Popular Arts

Media Education, Cultural Values and Cultural Production

Authored by: Andrew Burn

International Handbook of Media Literacy Education

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  April  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138645493
eBook ISBN: 9781315628110
Adobe ISBN: 9781317240068


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The question of cultural value has had a vexed history over the lifetime of media education. The championship of popular culture by media educators is almost taken for granted now, and it is easy to forget the intellectual struggle to defend this position. A landmark text in this struggle was Hall and Whannel’s The Popular Arts (1965), which made the case for the serious study of popular culture in schools, against the background of an NUT conference resolution condemning it. 1 The contradictions contained in Hall and Whannel’s “left-Leavisite” stance are clearly outlined by John Storey (2014), who captures the tensions between their efforts to promote the teaching of popular culture for its own sake, and their abiding conviction that distinctions of value can be made, both between popular and elite culture and, more pertinently for their argument, within popular culture itself. The contrast they memorably make is between pop music and jazz, which involves an overt judgment of value applied generally across those genres.

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