90977 - Pop Culture Theory

Academic Year 2020/2021

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Rimini
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Fashion Studies (cod. 9067)

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student is expected to acquire the knowledge of the essential aspects of the debate on the phenomenon of pop culture, which is broad, complex and of fundamental importance to understand the contemporary age. Central issues for this lecture course are, in particular: the contextualization of mass culture or popular culture, on the one side, and the poetics of pop, on the other side, in contemporary cultural reality; understanding the existing connections between so-called “high” culture and “low” or “popular” culture, with particular attention also on the role played by mass-media; the critical reflection on communication mediated by aesthetic symbolic forms that is so characterizing for these phenomena; the analysis of the structures of aesthetic-communicative praxis linked to taste and beauty, and of their role in the constitution of the image of individuals and groups, of their personal identity and of their lifestyle; the relationship between “pop” and “popular" culture, which is a relationship characterized by both continuity and unity, on the one side, and non-immediate and mere identity, on the other side; the comprehension of the relation between the various poetics of Pop in different aesthetic and artistic domains (visual arts, music, literature, film, fashion) and the different theories that have been developed with regard to pop culture also depending on the various possible approaches and methods in the study of this field (philosophy, psychology, sociology, cultural studies, cultural anthropology).

Course contents

Title of the lecture course:

Pop culture, Rock music, Social criticism.

The lecture course investigates the multidimensional imaginary of popular culture as ‘prism’ for a critical understanding of the contemporary age in general.

Through the analysis of selected topics according to criteria derived from different philosophical and sociological perspectives, the program faces the complex contaminations in the contemporary world between “high” or “serious” culture, on the one side, and “low” or “popular” culture, on the other side, and then focuses on the relation between aesthetics and social criticism today with a specific attention to one of the aesthetic phenomena included in the ‘constellation’ of popular culture, namely rock music.

The bibliography may be subject to changes until the beginning of the lecture course.



1) R. Shusterman. Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking Art, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., Lanham-Boulder-New York-Oxford 2000, only the following parts:

Chapter 6: “Aesthetic Ideology, Aesthetic Education, and Art’s Value in Critique” (only the first part of the chapter: pp. 139-147);

Chapter 7: “Form and Funk: The Aesthetic Challenge of Popular Art”;

Chapter 10: “Somaesthetics: A Disciplinary Proposal”.

2) Th. W. Adorno. “On Popular Music”, in Essays on Music, ed. by R. Leppert, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London: University of California Press, 2002;

also available in Current of Music: Elements of a Radio Theory, ed. by R. Hullot-Kentor, Polity Press, Cambridge-Malden (MA) 2009, pp. 272-326.

3) E. Wilson. Adorned in Dreams: Fashion and Modernity, Tauris & Co., London-New York 2003, only the following parts: pp. 1-15:

Chapter 1: Introduction (pp. 1-15);

Chapter 9: “Oppositional Dress” (pp. 179-207).

4) M. Fisher. Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, 0 Books, London 2009, only the following parts:

Chapter 1: pp. 1-11.

5) A. Noë. Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, Hill and Wang, New York 2016, only the following parts:

Chapters 15-16: 'Air Guitar Styles' and 'The Sound of Music' pp. 168-190.

The bibliography may be subject to changes until the beginning of the lecture course.


Teaching methods

Traditional lectures and class discussions with students.

Assessment methods

The assessment method is twofold: written and oral.

The students will first write a paper on one of the texts in the program of this lecture course, and send the paper to the teacher as email attachment (Word or Pdf) at least 7 days before the day of the oral exam published on AlmaEsami.

The paper must be written using Times New Roman 12, and must be long 5-10 pages max.

Then, the students will make an oral examination on the other parts of the program, namely on the texts that were not included in the paper.

The written and the oral parts of the examination will ensure the achievement of the following objectives:

- knowledge of the main conceptual contents of the texts examined;

- general orientation concerning the characteristics of contemporary aesthetic culture;

- comprehension of the affinities and differences between heterogeneous philosophical approaches to popular culture;

- comprehension of the meaning of the concepts learned in relation to the concrete phenomena taken into account.

Teaching tools

The lessons will be supported by the multimedia material available in the classroom.

Office hours

See the website of Stefano Marino