90977 - Pop Culture Theory

Academic Year 2023/2024

  • 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, Philosophy and Society, Feminism.


The lecture course investigates the multidimensional imaginary of popular culture as a "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 aims to face 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 aims to focuse on the relation between pop culture, rock music, philosophy and society.

In this context, a specific attention will be paid (1) to one of the most important rock bands of the last 30 years, Pearl Jam, and the so-called "grunge" style and subculture of the 1990s, and (2) to the latter's relation with a fundamental aspect of contemporary culture and society like feminism.


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 n. 7: “Form and Funk: The Aesthetic Challenge of Popular Art”.


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

Chapters n. 8, 9 and 11: "Fashion and Popular Culture", "Oppositional Dress", and "Feminism and Fashion".


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

Chapter n. 15: "Air Guitar Styles".


4) S. Marino and A. Schembari, eds., Pearl Jam and Philosophy, Bloomsbury, London-New York 2021, only the following parts:

Introduction, Chapters n. 1 (S. Marino), 4 (L.M. Bernhardt), 7 (P. Stellino), 8 (S. Kramer), 11 (A. Alfieri).



5) S. Marino. Popular Music, Feminism and the “Power of the Body” in the Performance: Some Remarks on Adorno, Shusterman and Pearl Jam, in "Popular Inquiry”, n. 2, 2022, pp. 48-69

(available in open access at: https://www.popularinquiry.com/issues-articles).



6. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists, Fourth Estate, New York 2014.


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




Other suggested (not mandatory) readings:


b. hooks, Feminism is for Everybody, Pluto Press, 2000.



M. Calloni, V. Antoniol and S. Marino, Critical Theory, Feminism and Popular Culture: Interview with Marina Calloni, in "Popular Inquiry”, n. 2, 2022

(available in open access at: https://www.popularinquiry.com/issues-articles)



K. Stögner, S. Marino and I. Zampaglione, Critical Theory and Feminism Today: An Interview with Karin Stögner, in "Scenari", n. 18, 2023

(available in open access at: https://mimesisjournals.com/ojs/index.php/scenari/article/view/3073)



G. Albonetti, Rock e maschilismo, in "Filosofemme", 24 October 2022

(available in open access at: https://www.filosofemme.it/2022/10/24/rock-e-maschilismo/)


G. Prato, Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music, ECW Press 2009.


S. Marino. Thirty Years of Pearl Jam (and Grunge Subculture): 1991-2021, in "Journal of Asia-Pacific Pop Culture”, n. 2, 2021

(available at: https://scholarlypublishingcollective.org/psup/jappc/article/6/2/365/288170/Thirty-Years-of-Pearl-Jam-and-Grunge-Subculture)

Teaching methods

Traditional lectures and class discussions with students.

Assessment methods

The assessment method is written.

The students will write a paper on at least 3 topics chosen from at least 3 texts in the Program of this Lecture Course, and send the paper to the teacher as email attachment (in Word format) at least 15 days before the day of the exam date published on AlmaEsami.

Only in particular, specific cases (such as problematic aspects in the paper, etc.) the teacher reserves the right to ask the student to integrate and complete the exam (after the submission of the paper) with an oral conversation on the program.

The paper must be written using Times New Roman 12, and must be long 7.000 characters min. and 25.000 characters max. (blank spaces included).

The paper must include: Name of the student and Identification number (“Matricola”) / Title of the paper / Main Text (structured in sections or not) / Bibliography.

The students must read and study all the texts in the Program (not just one essay; all texts must be read, as usually happens in every Lecture Course at the University).

The students can select then the topics from the various texts that are more interesting for them, and can choose to focus their paper on those topics.

It is important that the teacher can understand from the paper the student's level of knowlegde of the Program (as also happens in oral exams, for example, where the teacher may typically ask to the student various questions on the different texts in the Program, to try to understand the student's level of knowledge and understanding of the whole Program, and not just of a single text).

If a student wants to choose a case study and use it as a starting point to write his/her paper, this is, in principle, also acceptable (so that students, if they want, may also use their phantasy or use examples taken from their experiences with fashion, music, art, etc.), but it is important that students don't write their paper only on the event or phenomenon that they have freely chosen, but rather use it as an example to apply the concepts presented in the texts in the Program.


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


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This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.