The Cultural Poltics of Bad Taste (IDSEM-UG 1738)

This seminar investigates the ideological, political and historical parameters of ‘taste’ in popular culture. Through examination of media artifacts that exemplify ‘trash,’ the course examines how ‘taste’ is constituted as a cultural category that reflects, produces and maintains the social structures of American society. What is meant by designations such as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ media, ‘high and ‘low’ art, ‘offensive’ or ‘artistic’ and who is empowered to make these distinctions? How do ‘bad objects’ reveal the ideological basis of ‘taste,’ and what is their relationship to ‘legitimate’ art forms? Does ‘trash’ pose a challenge to cultural standards of taste and ‘the mainstream?’ What is the relationship between ‘bad’ art and spectatorship and why might audiences find ‘trash’ so enthralling? Readings are drawn from Bourdieu’s Distinction, Glynn’s Tabloid Culture, Ross’ No Respect, and the anthology Trash Culture, while screenings include cult films such as Freaks, Pink Flamingos, Plan 9 From Outer Space,South Park, and The Room, and a selection of reality TV programs, music and viral videos.

Interdisciplinary Seminars (Undergraduate)
4 credits – 15 Weeks

Sections (Spring 2024)

IDSEM-UG 1738-000 (12282)
01/22/2024 – 05/06/2024 Fri
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM (Early afternoon)
at Washington Square
Instructed by Cornell, Julian