Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Coming of age with Shakespeare: The convergence of American youth culture and high culture since the 1980s
by McAvoy, David L., Ph.D., Indiana University, 2012, 275; 3506323
Abstract (Summary)

In a culture in which “high” literary culture has become a “popular” enterprise, why is it that people are willing to bring copies of Jane Austen to the beach while that highest of literary achievements remains moldering on the bookshelf at home? Why do conservatives consider this question to be a sign of Shakespeare’s “vanishing” from culture, even as his ghost casts a long shadow over popular media today? While the particular fallout may be different, we can look to early modern England as an index for ways of answering such questions about the encounters between commercialism and pedagogical practice in our own age of media convergence. Early modern English media convergence redefined how subjects should interact with all manner of cultural practices, shaped young people’s learning, and formulated conflicted discourses about identity. Shakespeare himself takes on a similar role today as the absolute marker of taste within a multi-media environment in which aesthetic pleasures take new form. However, as my dissertation establishes, our relationship with Shakespeare’s media afterlives is far more ambivalent than commentators across the political spectrum care to admit.

My central assertion in this project is that youth culture is the most effective lens for understanding Shakespeare’s impact on these issues today. Much as Shakespeare’s works were caught in educational controversy in his own day, he is once again caught in culture wars over the value of the canon and the potential corruption of youth through remediated versions of his plays. By navigating the media consumed and produced by young people, I explore how Shakespeare influences their recognition of high culture as a tool for emotionally understanding their own gendered identities. Examining problems about the cultural construction of knowledge that Shakespeare investigated in plays such as The Tempest, I argue that Shakespeare, the paragon of high culture, now resides within a nexus of commerce and pedagogy as his corpus navigates the slings and arrows of media consumption. In short, my project probes Shakespeare’s afterlife as American media cultures “converge” in a youth-driven subculture that is finding new and surprising ways to keep “the Bard” vital.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Charnes, Linda, Hawkins, Joan
Commitee: MacKay, Ellen, Striphas, Ted
School: Indiana University
Department: English
School Location: United States -- Indiana
Source: DAI-A 73/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American studies, Pedagogy, British and Irish literature, Film studies
Keywords: Affect, Culture wars, High culture, Media, Shakespeare, William, Taste, Youth culture
Publication Number: 3506323
ISBN: 978-1-267-31726-1
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