The Art of Artertainment: Nobrow, American Style
Peter Swirski, Tero Eljas Vanhanen (Eds.)
by Peter Swirski (University of Alberta, Canada), Kenneth Krabbenhoft (New York University, USA), Cynthia J. Miller (Emerson College, USA), Keith Heimann (Brookdale College, USA), A. Bowdoin Van Riper (Martha’s Vineyard Museum, USA), Rossen Ventzislavov (Woodbury University, USA), Adriana Mariella (New York University, USA), Tero Eljas Vanhanen (University of Helsinki, Finland), David Rampton (University of Ottawa, Canada)
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This anthology of pioneering, highly readable essays on American popular culture focuses on how highbrow art and lowbrow entertainment have always dynamically and fruitfully interpenetrated one other in the USA. That openness to crossover is why American popular culture has come to dominate the globe. The proof that we live in a Nobrow Age? What more is needed than the award of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan! And who best to map out the larger cultural context than the contributors to this lively volume, whose coeditor and star contributor is the redoubtable Peter “Nobrow” Swirski?
Prof. Dr. Nicholas Ruddick
University of Regina, Canada
Artertainment is more than a novel aesthetic term reflecting the fact that art and entertainment have cross-pollinated each other throughout history. It is a creative strategy that purposely intertwines highbrow and lowbrow aesthetics in the name of reaching the connoisseurs and the masses.
The Art of Artertainment sets out to unravel the jumble of aesthetic faultlines and prejudices found wherever we find artistic crossovers—which is to say, everywhere. Revisionist, iconoclastic, and artertaining in its own right, it provides a new framework for the analysis of American nobrow culture from the Colonial times to the digitally turbocharged present.
List of Figures
Chapter 1 That’s Artertainment! (No, It’s Not a Typo)
Peter Swirski and Tero Eljas Vanhanen
Birth of the Nobrow
What Good Is Art(ertainment), Anyway?
Chapter 2 Artertainment For Everyone: American Culture in the Zettabyte Age
Zettabits and Zettabytes
Framing and Priming
Aesthetics and Poetics
Chapter 3 Literature and Artertainment: Faulkner and Nabokov
Poe-brow: American Gothic
Nobrow’s Foster Children of Silence
The Cecilia Syndrome
Chapter 4 The Colonial Art of Artertainment: Wiltwyck, America, 1664
New Year’s Eve, 1664, Wiltwyck, New Netherland
Summer 2018, Kingston, New York
Third Millennium, Planet Earth
Chapter 5 The Artertaining Aesthetics of Tits and Ass: Burlesque and the Culture Wars
Cynthia J. Miller
The Leg Business
In the Land of the Lowbrow
Chapter 6 Artertainment, Puzzles, and a Whodunit: Culture and Commerce in The Mystery of “The Master Puzzler”
Wm. Keith Heimann
Give ’Em Something New!
Sam Loyd and Theodore Presser: Scoundrel and Squeaky Clean
“Sam Loyd, Master Puzzler, Has Come to The Etude!”
Chapter 7 Animation, Anarchy, and Artertainment: Hollywood’s Comic Deconstruction of American History
A. Bowdoin Van Riper
Mythohistory and Civic Religion
Bombarding the Canon
Low Comedy vs. High Seriousness
Chapter 8 The Architecture of Artertainment: Getting All Our Ducks in a Row
Building High and Low
A City in the Blind Spot
Chapter 9 Culture for Sale: Ads and Identity in the Age of Artertainment
A Trojan Horse
Zeitgeist and Zerrspiegel
Notes on Contributors
Peter Swirski is a Canadian literary and cultural critic featured in Canadian Who’s Who. Currently Senior Research Associate at the Wirth Institute at the University of Alberta, Canada, and Honorary Professor of American Literature and Culture at Jinan University, China, he was formerly Distinguished Professor of American Studies and American Literature at SYSU in China, and Professor and Research Director at Europe’s elite Helsinki Institute for Advanced Studies in Finland.
He has published extensively on contemporary American literature and culture, including popular fiction and popular culture, winning critical awards and attracting praise ranging from the Financial Times to the TLS. Among his nineteen books, the groundbreaking From Lowbrow to Nobrowis a staple of popular culture studies, joined more recently by American Crime Fiction: A Cultural History of Genre Literature as Art and When Highbrow Meets Lowbrow: Popular Culture and the Rise of Nobrow. He has given keynotes and lectures on all continents of the world save Africa, in 2012 delivering a plenary at UNE's Institute for Global Humanities alongside Noam Chomsky. He has also made multiple television appearances in Europe, Russia, the United States, and Hong Kong, as well as on the BBC World Service with audiences of 200 million worldwide.
Tero Eljas Vanhanen is a literary scholar and cultural critic specializing in the role of emotions in art, entertainment, and artertainment, as well as in the study of the fissures and affinities between elite and popular culture. Currently, he is a teacher and researcher in Comparative literature at the Universities of Turku and Helsinki. He teaches subjects ranging from Aristotle’s poetics to contemporary popular culture to the problem of evil in literary history. He is a member of the board of Young Academy Finland, an elite invitation-only division of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters. Previously, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley.
He is the co-editor (with Peter Swirski) of When Highbrow Meets Lowbrow: Popular Culture and the Rise of Nobrow. His articles have appeared in journals such as Philosophy and Literature, SubStance, and The Journal of American Studies. He has also contributed to several scholarly collections, including Values of Literature in Brill’s Value Inquiry Book Series. Outside the academia, he is a rhetoric coach hosting workshops for businesses and organizations on how to utilize storytelling and post-classical rhetoric to achieve their communication goals.