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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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show series
 
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 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…
 
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…
 
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…
 
“All men must die”: or “Valar Morghulis,” as the traditional Essos greeting is rendered in High Valyrian. And die they do – in prodigious numbers; in imaginatively varied and gruesome ways; and often in terror within the viciously unpredictable world that is HBO's sensational evocation of Game of Thrones. As acclaimed medievalist Professor Carolyne…
 
In his latest book, Lawrence Tierney: Hollywood's Real-Life Tough Guy (The University of Kentucky Press, 2022) Burt Kearns explores the life of actor Lawrence Tierney (1919-2002) whose natural swagger and gruff disposition made him the perfect fit for the Hollywood "tough guy" archetype. Known for his erratic and oftentimes violent nature, Tierney …
 
In Fandom, the Next Generation (University of Iowa Press, 2022), Bridget Kies and Megan Connor have edited the first collection to offer a close study of fan generations, which are defined not only by fans’ ages, but by their entry point into a canon or via their personal politics. Divided into three parts--Reboots, Revivals, and Nostalgia; Generat…
 
Francis Ford Coppola's "The Godfather, Part II" (1974) is a magisterial cinematic work, a gorgeous, stylized, auteur epic, and one of the few sequels judged by many to be greater than its predecessor. This despite the fact that it consists largely of meetings between aspiring 'Godfather' Michael Corleone and fellow gangsters, politicians and family…
 
From Beyoncé's South Asian music-inspired Super Bowl Halftime performance, to jazz artists like John and Alice Coltrane's use of Indian song structures and spirituality in their work, to Jay-Z and Missy Elliott's high-profile collaborations with diasporic South Asian artists such as the Panjabi MC and MIA, African American musicians have frequently…
 
In 2020, during the nadir of the pandemic, Annie Rauwerda began posting strange, humorous, and obscure Wikipedia entries on social media. She dubbed her project Depths of Wikipedia, and after several hundred posts on Instagram and Twitter, she began to amass a following of fellow Wikipedians. More than two years later, Depths of Wikipedia has more …
 
In U2's The Joshua Tree: Planting Roots in Mythic America (Backbeat, 2021) Bradley Morgan examines U2's iconic album and their critique of America as a symbol of hope. Through analysis of each track on The Joshua Tree, Morgan examines the 1987 release, the subsequent 2017 30th anniversary tour, and his own connection with the band and his Irish her…
 
Today I talked to Alan Shuback about his book Hollywood at the Races: Film's Love Affair with the Turf (UP of Kentucky, 2019) A love of the slapstick film duo Laurel and Hardy led nine-year-old Alan Shuback into a chance encounter with thoroughbred horse racing in 1957. Racing soon also became a passion, and he never abandoned either love, making a…
 
Sesame Street has taught generations of Americans their letters and numbers, and also how to better understand and get along with people of different races, faiths, ethnicities, and temperaments. But the show has a global reach as well, with more than thirty co-productions of Sesame Street that are viewed in over 150 countries. In recent years, the…
 
In Aquaman and the War against Oceans (University of Nebraska Press, 2022), Ryan Poll explores ways the New 52 reimagining of Aquaman--a massive overhaul and rebranding of all DC Comics--transformed the character from a joke to an important figure of ecological justice. In this series, Aquaman becomes an accessible figure for charting environmental…
 
Adam Crowley's book Representations of Poverty in Videogames (Palgrave MacMillan, 2022) argues that digital games address contemporary, middle-class anxieties about poverty in the United States. The early chapters consider gaming as a modern form of slumming and explore the ways in which titles like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and World of Warcraft…
 
Image by image and hashtag by hashtag, Instagram has redefined the ways we relate to food. Emily J. H. Contois and Zenia Kish’s edited book Food Instagram: Identity, Influence, and Negotiation (published by the University of Illinois Press in 2022) explore the massively popular social media platform as a space for self-identification, influence, tr…
 
After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the timing appeared perfect to bring Sesame Street to millions of children living in the former Soviet Union. With the Muppets envisioned as ideal ambassadors of Western values, no one anticipated just how challenging and dangerous this would prove to be. In Muppets in Moscow: The Unexpecte…
 
Written by the former executive director of the Academy, this is the first behind-the-scenes history of the organization behind the Academy Awards. For all the near-fanatic attention brought each year to the Awards, the organization that dispenses those awards--the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences--has never been well-understood. The org…
 
How do women balance feminist identities whilst being science fiction fans? In Women Negotiating Feminism and Science Fiction Fandom: The Case of the “Good” Fan (Palgrave MacMillan, 2022), Neta Yodovich, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Haifa’s department of Sociology, explores the lived experience of feminist women who are sci-fi fan…
 
Ubiquitous illegal lotteries known as policy flourished in Chicago's Black community during the overlapping waves of the Great Migration. Policy "queens" owned stakes in lucrative operations while women writers and clerks canvased the neighborhood, passed out winnings, and kept the books. In Dream Books and Gamblers: Black Women's Work in Chicago's…
 
It’s easy to forget that the cultural archetypes that pass for queerness today have historical roots. Some of these roots are mere years away from today’s reality but they are nonetheless distinct and come with their own artefacts and subcultures. Peter Rehberg’s book Hipster Porn: Queer Masculinities and Affective Sexualities in the Fanzine 'Butt'…
 
We couldn’t do a season on the Cold War without talking about Bond . . . James Bond. He was there from the beginning and has of course survived into the post-Cold War era. So many films, so many Bonds. We’ve talked about nuclear warfare, espionage and intrigue, evil deep state corporations and corrupt national security institutions, and human stori…
 
College football is a massive enterprise in the United States, and southern teams dominate poll rankings and sports headlines while generating billions in revenue for public schools and private companies. Southern football fans worship their teams, often rearranging their personal lives in order to accommodate season schedules. Andrew McIlwaine Bel…
 
What are teens actually doing on their smartphones? Contrary to many adults' assumptions, they are not simply "addicted" to their screens, oblivious to the afterlife of what they post, or missing out on personal connection. They are just trying to navigate a networked world. In Behind Their Screens: What Teens Are Facing (and Adults Are Missing) (M…
 
In The Folk: Music, Modernity, and the Political Imagination (U California Press, 2021), Ross Cole revisits the remarkable upswell of interest in folk songs in fin de siècle Britain and America. While the work of folk collectors such as John Lomax, Cecil Sharp and Hubert Parry seems primarily about the preservation of premodern musical cultures, Co…
 
The Coen Bros. have attracted a wide following and have been rewarded with Oscars and other honors. Some of their films such as Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and No Country for Old Men are cult favorites and box office hits. Yet this team of filmmaking brothers remains misunderstood in some critical circles, partly because, like John Ford, they mischiev…
 
Remember Khrushchev-Nixon Kitchen Debate? America recognized its consumer culture was a Cold War weapon. By the early 80s, the home computer in the hands of teenagers further demonstrated American dominance on the economic and cultural fronts. But what happens when teenagers check out of real life and responsibilities too much? We look at films tha…
 
Two decades after Lewis and Lamb Chop last graced television with their presence, Lewis' daughter Mallory and author Nat Segaloff have set the record straight about the iconic pair in Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop: The Team that Changed Children's Television (University of Kentucky Press, 2022). For almost half a century, celebrated ventriloquist and e…
 
Andrei Nae's book Immersion, Narrative, and Gender Crisis in Survival Horror Video Games (Routledge, 2021) investigates the narrativity of some of the most popular survival horror video games and the gender politics implicit in their storyworlds. In a thorough analysis of the genre that draws upon detailed comparisons with the mainstream action gen…
 
Warehouse workers pack boxes while a virtual dragon races across their screen. If they beat their colleagues, they get an award. If not, they can be fired. Uber presents exhausted drivers with challenges to keep them driving. China scores its citizens so they behave well, and games with in-app purchases use achievements to empty your wallet. Points…
 
Despite changes in the media landscape, film remains a vital force in contemporary culture, as do our ideas of what "a movie" or "the cinematic" are. Indeed, we might say that the category of film now only exists in theory. Whereas film-theoretical discussion at the turn of the 21st century was preoccupied, understandably, by digital technology's p…
 
Reframing Disability in Manga (University of Hawaii Press, 2020) analyzes popular Japanese manga published from the 1990s to the present that portray the everyday lives of adults and children with disabilities in an ableist society. It focuses on five representative conditions currently classified as shōgai (disabilities) in Japan―deafness, blindne…
 
Darrel Perkins new book The End is at Hand (Feral House, 2022) is a collection of short essays about how people throughout history believe the world could end. The book explores how it has all ended before, when we mistakenly thought it would end again, and the many ways it could end in the future. Though organized chronologically, beginning with p…
 
Black Panther was the first Black superhero in mainstream American comics. Black Panther was a cultural phenomenon that broke box office records. Yet it wasn’t just a movie led by and starring Black artists. It grappled with ideas and conflicts central to Black life in America and helped redress the racial dynamics of the Hollywood blockbuster. Sco…
 
What do children love most about books? Leaving their mark on inviting white spaces? Or that enchanting feeling when a book marks them as its own, taking them off to where the wild things are? Back in 2021, Elizabeth and John invited illustrious and illuminating book historian Leah Price to decode childhood reading past and present. The conversatio…
 
This episode and the next look back at films that came out in the 1980s, a decade when Hollywood seemed to cater to teenage audiences like never before. So it makes sense that the geo-political structure that shaped and influenced so much of global political action - the Cold War - would show up in movies targeting teen audiences. In the broader me…
 
In 1910, the future of California wine looked dim. Beset by crises ranging from earthquakes to insect infestations, and with momentum moving toward prohibition, the nascent industry seemed dead on the vine. How then, a mere sixty years later, did a blind taste test from some of France's toughest sommeliers judge California wines superior to their F…
 
For many, the Beatles offered a delightful alternative to the dull and the staid, while for others, the mop-top haircuts, the unsettling music, and the hysterical girls that greeted the British imports wherever they went were a symbol of unwelcome social and cultural change. This opposition to the group--more widespread and deeper rooted in Chicago…
 
From Erin Keane, editor in chief at Salon, comes Runaway: Notes in the Myths that Made Me (Belt Publishing, 2022), a touching memoir about the search for truths in the stories families tell. In 1970, Erin Keane's mother ran away from home for the first time. She was thirteen years old. Over the next several years, and under two assumed identities, …
 
There has been no greater surge in global fashion trends and expressions of personal style than in the contemporary era of social media fashion influencers. But what constitutes “being in fashion” amongst this multiplicity of interpretations? In this episode of Humanities Matter, Dr. Laura Petican, Professor of Sociology at the National University,…
 
Hollywood fantasy cinema is responsible for some of the most lucrative franchises produced over the past two decades, yet it remains difficult to find popular or critical consensus on what the experience of watching fantasy cinema actually entails. What makes something a fantasy film, and what unique pleasures does the genre offer? In Encountering …
 
Ramzi Fawaz, Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has a new book that weaves together the more contemporary history of feminism and women’s liberation, the gay liberation movement, feminist and queer theory, and iconic popular culture artifacts in order to understand gendered and sexual forms in context of gender and sexual …
 
Is the Bible the unembellished Word of God or the product of human agency? There are different answers to that question. And they lie at the heart of this book's powerful exploration of the fraught ways in which money, race and power shape the story of Christianity in American public life. The authors' subject is the Museum of the Bible in Washingt…
 
On any given night, hundreds of guests walk the darkened streets of Colonial Williamsburg looking for ghosts. Since the early 2000s, both the museum and private companies have facilitated these hunts, offering year-round ghost tours. Critics have called these excursions a cash grab, but in truth, ghosts and hauntings have long been at the center of…
 
Dining out used to be considered exceptional. However, the Food Standards Authority reported that in 2014, one meal in six was eaten away from home in Britain. Previously considered a necessary substitute for an inability to obtain a meal in a family home, dining out has become a popular recreational activity for a majority of the population, offer…
 
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