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What does ‘2001: a Space Odyssey’ have to do with Odysseus? How does Brad Pitt's Achilles in 'Troy' match up to Homer's original hero? And is Arnold Schwarzenegger the new Heracles? This collection of video animations and audio discussions examines how the heroes of Greek mythology have been represented in popular culture, from ancient times to the modern day. Odysseus is the archetypal questing hero - a blank canvas on which every era has projected its own values. Heracles is the original s ...
 
What does ‘2001: a Space Odyssey’ have to do with Odysseus? How does Brad Pitt's Achilles in 'Troy' match up to Homer's original hero? And is Arnold Schwarzenegger the new Heracles? This collection of video animations and audio discussions examines how the heroes of Greek mythology have been represented in popular culture, from ancient times to the modern day. Odysseus is the archetypal questing hero - a blank canvas on which every era has projected its own values. Heracles is the original s ...
 
NEON is a different way of sharing historical knowledge. NEON takes a pop culture phenomenon and turns it on its head by revealing lesser known facts, real-life events and history behind your favourite Netflix shows, movies or video games.From how the A-Team took inspiration from Vietnamese history and resistance leaders, to the Aryan purity and Harem breeding programs behind the Handmaid’s Tale. Even some of the most successful video games – Assassins Creed, God of War, and Fortnite – are s ...
 
The aim of this series is to offer insights into key moments in the story of Irish popular culture since the publication of Thomas Moore's Irish Melodies in the early nineteenth century. If the story of transnational Irish popular culture begins with Thomas Moore in the early nineteenth century, it wasn't until the end of the 1800s that writers and intellectuals began to theorize the impact of mass cultural production on the Irish psyche during the industrial century. In 1892 Douglas Hyde, s ...
 
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In Wild Music: Sound and Sovereignty in Ukraine (Wesleyan UP, 2019), Maria Sonevytsky tracks vernacular Ukrainian discourses of “wildness” as they manifested in popular music during a volatile decade of Ukrainian political history bracketed by two revolutions. From the Eurovision Song Contest to reality TV, from Indigenous radio to the revolution s…
 
What if human intelligence is actually more of a liability than a gift? After all, the animal kingdom, in all its diversity, gets by just fine without it. At first glance, human history is full of remarkable feats of intelligence, yet human exceptionalism can be a double-edged sword. With our unique cognitive prowess comes severe consequences, incl…
 
In her new book, Finding Jackie: A Life Reinvented (Diversion Books, 2023), scholar and writer Oline Eaton examines the story of an era's biggest "star of life," Jaqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, as she coped with trauma and built a new existence in an unstable world during the time between JFK's murder in 1963 and the death of her second husband,…
 
In “Fame is Not Just for the Fellas”: Female Renown and the Childhood of Famous Americans Series (University of Massachusetts Press, 2022), Gregory Pfitzer examines the editorial and production choices surrounding the biographies of women in the popular children’s book series Childhood of Famous Americans, published between 1932 and 1958. Using con…
 
New York has long been a city where people go to reinvent themselves. And since the dawn of the twentieth century, New York City’s Greenwich Village has been at the center of that alchemy of reinvention. Its side streets, squares and coffeehouses have nurtured generations of artists, writers, and musicians, among them Bob Dylan. Dylan first set foo…
 
Alan Moore’s and Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen fundamentally altered the perception of American comic books and remains one of the medium’s greatest hits. Launched in 1986—“the year that changed comics” for most scholars in comics studies—Watchmen quickly assisted in cementing the legacy that comics were a serious form of literature no longer defined by …
 
Twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, firstly in 1969 for The Armies of the Night and again in 1980 for The Executioner's Song, Norman Mailer's life comes as close as is possible to being the Great American Novel: beyond reason, inexplicable, wonderfully grotesque and addictive.The Naked and the Dead was acclaimed not so much for its intrinsic qualit…
 
In the early 1960s, the nation was on track to fulfill its destiny in what was being called the American Century. Baby boomers and rock & roll shared the country's optimism and energy. For one brief, shining moment in the early 1960s, both President John F. Kennedy and young people across the country were riding high. The dream of a New Frontier wo…
 
In Fish, Milk, Tamarind: A Book of Egyptian Arabic Food Expressions (American University in Cairo Press, 2022), Dalal Abo El Seoud presents 100 commonly used Egyptian food expressions. Can you guess what Egyptians mean when they say that something is "a peeled banana" or that someone is "sleeping in honey" or has "turned the sea to tahini"? You may…
 
Is it ever morally wrong to enjoy fantasizing about immoral things? Many video games allow players to commit numerous violent and immoral acts. But should players worry about the morality of their virtual actions? A common argument is that games offer merely the virtual representation of violence. No one is actually harmed by committing a violent a…
 
Sabrina Mittermeier's edited volume Fan Phenomena: Disney (Intellect Books, 2023) analyzes the fandom of Disney brands across a variety of media including film, television, novels, stage productions, and theme parks. It showcases fan engagement such as cosplay, fan art, and on social media, as well as the company’s reaction to it. Further, the volu…
 
What needs are satisfied in digital gaming? And what does the shift of these need satisfactions into the digital space say about the social realities in which they are embedded? Harald Koberg lets gamers themselves have their say and follows their traces of the described fascinations and passions in his latest book Free Play: Digital Gaming and the…
 
We shouldn’t be dismissive of the popularity of children’s literature among adults, as it is often in these works of fiction that powerful themes such as death, love, and virtue are most deeply and imaginatively explored. Guests Christina Phillips Mattson, Scholar of Children’s Literature Casper ter Kuile, Ministry Innovation Fellow at Harvard Divi…
 
The traditional folklore and animistic beliefs of the Sámi, the Indigenous nomadic peoples of northern Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia, are under-studied and their cultural significance rarely acknowledged, even in the Scandinavian countries where Sámi traditions have intermingled with mainstream ones. The spread of Christianity and the influen…
 
Seeing cigarette smoking as a cultural phenomenon of Western modernity is perhaps easier when the test case is outside the US where the narrative is dominated by Big Bad Tobacco and litigation. Tricia Starks's two volume study does just that. Her second volume, Cigarettes and Soviets: Smoking in the USSR (Cornell University Press, 2022) traces the …
 
Despite the box-office and critical success of Walt Disney Animation Studios' 2013 film Frozen, it also drew criticism and backlash for how it incorporated elements of the culture and heritage of the Sámi, the Indigenous people of northern Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Russia. Sámi representatives had not been consulted in the making of Frozen, and …
 
Despite being set in the distant future on a remote desert planet, the story of resource extraction, power, politics, ecology, and religion told in Frank Herbert's sci-fi series Dune bears distinct parallels to real-world history and events. One example of Herbert's real-life inspirations comes in the characters of the Fremen, who Herbert based on …
 
Roma figures have been an essential part of European folklore, myths, and literary traditions for centuries, with writers from Cervantes to Shakespeare to Victor Hugo drawing on the stereotype of the free-spirited, bohemian "Gypsy." Post-World War II, Roma characters began to appear in a new literary medium: American comic books. Roma heroes and vi…
 
The Moog synthesizer ‘bent the course of music forever’ Rolling Stone declared. Bob Moog, the man who did that bending, was a lovable geek with Einstein hair and pocket protectors. He walked into history in 1964 when his homemade contraption unexpectedly became a sensation---suddenly everyone wanted a Moog. The Beatles, The Doors, The Byrds, and St…
 
In Administering Affect: Pop-Culture Japan and the Politics of Anxiety (Stanford UP, 2022), Daniel White draws on extensive fieldwork in government ministries and government-adjacent organizations to explore Japan’s current “politics of anxiety,” the ways in which state administrators have transformed anxieties about Japan’s global geopolitical sta…
 
Today I talked to Ellen Cassedy about her new book Working 9 to 5: A Women's Movement, a Labor Union, and the Iconic Movie (Chicago Review Press, 2022). Many people may identify 9 to 5 with the comic film starring Jane Fonda, Dolly Parton and Lily Tomlin or perhaps only know Parton’s hit song that served as its theme. But 9 to 5 wasn't just a comic…
 
In The Dreamer and the Dream: Afrofuturism and Black Religious Thought (Ohio State UP, 2021), Professor Roger Sneed illuminates the interplay of Black religious thought with science fiction narratives to present a bold case for Afrofuturism as an important channel for Black spirituality. In the process, he challenges the assumed primacy of the Blac…
 
In Oceans Under Glass: Tank Craft and the Sciences of the Sea (University of Chicago Press, 2022), Samantha Muka, Assistant Professor of Science, Technology, and Society at Stevens Institute of Technology, dives into the unexpected world of tank crafting. Throughout the book, Muka tells the stories behind the development of various kinds of aquariu…
 
Who gets to define generational cohorts and do they obscure more than illuminate? Guests Neil Howe, author of Generations Tony Tulathimutte, author of Why There’s No ‘Millennial’ Novel Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/popular-cultu…
 
This episode from the Vault is a lecture by May Berenbaum about why insects are so scary. Professor Berenbaum is an American entomologist whose research focuses on the chemical interactions between herbivorous insects and their host plants. She teaches entomology at the University of Illinois, and was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2014. …
 
What happens when politics becomes comedy and the jester becomes the king? Guests Emily Nussbaum, television critic for The New Yorker Avi Steinberg, writer Kwesi Mensah, comedian Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices Support our show by becoming a premium member! https://newbooksnetwork.supportingcast.fm/popular-culture…
 
Rebecca Binn's Gee Vaucher: Beyond Punk, Feminism and the Avante Garde (Manchester University Press, 2022) is the first book-length work dedicated to the life and career of Vaucher. As one of the people who defined punk's protest art in the 1970s and 1980s, Gee Vaucher (b. 1945) deserves to be much better-known. She produced confrontational album c…
 
A special bonus episode in honor of the 93rd Academy Awards on April 25, 2021! One of the most-nominated films at this year's Oscars is "Nomadland," adapted from a book of the same name by journalist Jessica Bruder. "Nomadland" is about a 21st-century American phenomenon - the post-2008 increase in (mostly elderly) people who practice "vandwelling,…
 
In this week’s episode from the Institute’s Vault, Molly Haskell talks about her 2009 book, Frankly, My Dear: "Gone with the Wind" Revisited, published by Yale University Press. Haskell grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and studied at the Sorbonne. She came to New York in the sixties to work for the French Film office, where she wrote a newsletter abo…
 
“The Little Mermaid” has become popular around the world since the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen published it almost two centuries ago. Lucy Fraser’s The Pleasures of Metamorphosis: Japanese and English Fairy Tale Transformations of “The Little Mermaid” (Wayne State University Press, 2017) uses Japanese and American transformations of “The …
 
In a burst of creativity unmatched in Hollywood history, Preston Sturges directed a string of all-time classic comedies from 1939 through 1948--The Great McGinty, The Lady Eve, Sullivan's Travels, The Palm Beach Story, and The Miracle of Morgan's Creek among them--all from screenplays he alone had written. Stuart Klawans' Crooked, But Never Common:…
 
Jayne Mansfield (1933-1967) was driven not just to be an actress but to be a star. One of the most influential sex symbols of her time, she was known for her platinum blonde hair, hourglass figure, outrageously low necklines, and flamboyant lifestyle. Hardworking and ambitious, Mansfield proved early in her career that she was adept in both comic a…
 
In this conversation (one of my favorite interviews ever), I talk with Noah Askin of the University of California at Irvine about why some popular children's books, songs, and movies seem to last forever. Is it because the successful ones are similar but different? Is it a fluke? Is it the marketing? Or is it the story that the song/book/movie/anyt…
 
A formal approach to anime rethinks globalization and transnationality under neoliberalism Anime has become synonymous with Japanese culture, but its global reach raises a perplexing question--what happens when anime is produced outside of Japan? Who actually makes anime, and how can this help us rethink notions of cultural production? In Anime's I…
 
Object Lessons is a Bloomsbury series of short, beautifully designed books about the hidden lives of ordinary things. This interview focuses on Trench Coat by Dr. Jane Tynan, published in 2022. We think we know the trench coat, but where does it come from and where will it take us? From its origins in the trenches of WW1, this military outerwear ca…
 
What does Prehistory mean to us now? In Back to the Stone Age: Race and Prehistory in Contemporary Culture (McGill-Queen's UP, 2022), Ben Pitcher, a Reader in Sociology at the University of Westminster, uses cultural studies to explore both the human past and our contemporary life. The book examines how ideas of the prehistoric speak to contemporar…
 
Innumeracy, by John Allen Paulos, was first published in 1988. In it the author brilliantly highlighted many of the sorry truths those of us who teach math and science know – not only can’t most people do algebra or geometry, they can’t estimate size, they don’t understand simple probability and statistics, and they believe in things that make no s…
 
Britney Spears barely survived 2007. She divorced her husband, lost custody of her kids, went to rehab, shaved her head and assaulted a paparazzo. In the midst of her public breakdown, she managed to record an album, Blackout. Critics thought it spelled the end for Britney Spears' career. But Blackout turned out to be one of the most influential al…
 
Crimes are meant to be solved. But what happens when they’re not? For the individuals involved—from the victims and their families to police investigators—this is the most frustrating part of all. For them there’s no resolution, no justice, no tidy boxes in which to pack away all the bits and pieces of a puzzle that finally links together. Instead,…
 
For players, coaches, writers, and fans, basketball is a science and an art, a religious sacrament, a source of entertainment, and a way of interacting with the world. In Lost in the Game: A Book about Basketball (Duke UP, 2022), Thomas Beller entwines these threads with his lifetime's experience as a player and journalist, roaming NBA locker rooms…
 
In this episode I got to chat about two of my favorite things: the history of imperialism and Star Wars with Daniel Immerwahr, Professor of History at Northwestern University. Our conversation focused on his recent article “The Galactic Vietnam: Technology, Modernization, and Empire in George Lucas’s Star Wars,” in Ideology in U.S. Foreign Relation…
 
While the story of women’s liberation has often been framed by the growing acceptance of pants over the twentieth century, the most important and influential female fashions of the era featured skirts. Suffragists and soldiers marched in skirts; the heroines of the Civil Rights Movement took a stand in skirts. Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keeffe revol…
 
Comedy is so frequently the topic of cultural dialogue, but it is rarely taken seriously as an object of study. Comedy Against Work: Utopian Longing in Dystopian Times (Common Notions, 2022) offers a major contribution to theorizing comedy but also thinking about the particular politics of the genre today. Work is a joke and often the butt of our j…
 
In Wandering Games (MIT Press, 2022), Melissa Kagen analyzes wandering within different game worlds, viewed through the lenses of work, colonialism, gender, and death. Wandering in games can be a theme, a formal mode, an aesthetic metaphor, or a player action. It can mean walking, escaping, traversing, meandering, or returning. Kagen introduces the…
 
The Shining: A Visual and Cultural Haunting (Rough Trade Books, 2022) is an immersive, multi-dimensional examination of one of the most famous films in cinematic history. This loose-leafed and beautifully boxed book—disguised as the ‘writing project’ Jack is typing throughout the course of the film—explores the film’s cultural legacy through exclus…
 
From Halloween expert Lisa Morton, bring us Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances (Reaktion, 2022), a level-headed and entertaining history of our desire and attempts to hold conversations with the dead. Calling the Spirits investigates the eerie history of our conversations with the dead, from necromancy in Homer’s Odyssey to the emergence of …
 
In the twenty-first century, American culture is experiencing a profound shift toward pluralism and secularization. In Fairy Tales in Contemporary American Culture: How We Hate to Love Them (Lexington Books, 2021), Kate Christina Moore Koppy argues that the increasing popularity and presence of fairy tales within American culture is both indicative…
 
In popular thought, Christianity is often figured as being opposed to dance. Conventional scholarship traces this controversy back to the Middle Ages. Historical sources, however, suggest that medieval dance was a complex and ambivalent phenomenon. During the High and Late Middle Ages, Western theologians, liturgists, and mystics not only tolerated…
 
A sweeping and heartbreaking Hollywood biography about the passionate, turbulent marriage of Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. In 1934, a friend brought fledgling actress Vivien Leigh to see Theatre Royal, where she would first lay eyes on Laurence Olivier in his brilliant performance as Anthony Cavendish. That night, she confided to a friend, he …
 
The director and cowriter of some of the world's most iconic films―including Double Indemnity, Sunset Blvd., Some Like It Hot, and The Apartment―Billy Wilder earned acclaim as American cinema's greatest social satirist. Though an influential fixture in Hollywood, Wilder always saw himself as an outsider. His worldview was shaped by his background i…
 
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