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The Cultural Politics of Bad Taste

Semester and Year SP 2019
Course Number IDSEM-UG1738
Section 001
Instructor Julian Cornell
Days R
Time 3:30 PM - 6:10 PM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM



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.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)