1The term pop culture, equivalent to “culture de masse” in French – designates a cultural phenomenon that, according to historian Dominique Kalifa, began in 1860’s and developed throughout the 20th century. Pop culture encompasses the cultural industry and mass media in all their forms, from the press to Internet, to film, radio and television. Nevertheless this is not an exhaustive approach to the phenomenon: which ties can be woven between popular and mass culture? The very ambiguity of the term pop culture, treated and translated by diverse specialists of American history (J. Portes, M. Kammen), provides ample proof of a difficulty to set boundaries. Are the thorny terms “consumption”, “series” and “stereotype” adequate enough to give insight into its effects ? Mass culture, currently at opposite ends of the culture of the elite, has long been a subject of contention, especially after being called into question by the Frankfort School, technological reproducibility of a work bringing about, according to Benjamin, the loss of its “aura”. The diffusion and institutional acknowledgement of pop art have managed to cloud the issue.
2The articles presented here have been organized around three separate angles of analysis thus allowing an examination into the complex relationship between literature and pop culture.
Claire Cornillon, Jennifer Dick and Vanessa Besand treat diverse strategies of borrowing from mass culture following two distinct logics: the first, on the order of the esthetic and the ludic, focuses on playing with codes and renewing genres; the other, critical and subversive, seeks to denounce or at least reveal the economic and ideological undercurrents behind mass culture.
Claire Cornillon’s article analyses ways in which two main genres of pop culture, namely science fiction and the detective novel have influenced the works of Richard Morgan and Maurice Dantec. Borrowing codes from these so-called “literary genres” favors a certain type of double game wherein the writers’ creative license unfurls: added to the rewriting and hybridizing of genre, proper to literature, we find reference to an expanded contra-culture ranging from film noir to rock, jazz or pop music enriching the sensitive and imaginary world of the texts. Jennifer Dick and Vanessa Besand examine works whose borrowing techniques have been woven with a critical or ironic distance. While Austrian novelist Elfride Jelinek also uses schemas of popular literature which she admittedly devoured in her youth – crime novels, sentimental love stories or soap-operas - her novels present an ambiguous approach. Vanessa Bessand points out that this writing finds itself at the crossroads of cultural studies and postmodernism: she questions the barriers between elite culture and popular culture all while uncovering the ideological and mercantile undercurrents of the culture of mass media. Next Jennifer Dick follows the subversive use of advertising techniques in concrete and visual poetry of the 20th and 21st centuries. This ‘poetry of combat” has for goal the toppling of advertising’s consumerist message via arms that borrow from advertising’s visual effectiveness (typographical work, spacing text and layout, montage and collage techniques etc.), favoring effects of distance, irony or black humor.
3Geneviève Orssaud and Bettina Ghio associate the analysis of interaction between literature and pop culture to an inquiry into identity, by way of the confrontation and differentiation of the concepts of mass and pop culture. Geneviève Orssaud analyses the work of a new generation of Argentinean artists born in the 90’s as seen in the photographic work of Marcos Lopez and novelists Alejandro Lopez and Cucurto: in these works, references to mass culture go hand in hand with a reflection on the disastrous consequences of the neo-liberal politics of Carlos Saul Menem, who traded off “Argentinean identity for a cheap global culture”. Besides the “trafficking of bodies” and “stolen lives”’, this international capitalism has kept Argentineans from reviving their history by denying the nation’s past and America’s plural identity. The article also tackles the ambiguous position of a dedicated artist in a system which feeds on contestation: a choice between an “oblique” denunciation through the objectivity of a documentary approach or humor characterizes the unique strategy of these works. As for Bettina Ghio, she cross examines “the case of French rap” and its legitimacy integrating itself into “literature”: language work behind French rap’s first texts etched out a niche in a “literary tradition combining poetry, prose and theater”. Retracing the beginnings of French rap, the editor refutes the theory of a “trend” copied from America to propose another, i.e., the “appropriation” of a mode of expression designed to respond to an urgent call to remedy social and identity problems, already latent in the early 80’s in the form of 2nd generation North African theater. Hence, rap came on the scene as a practice of hybridization including both a quest for identity, via research for an “inter-culture” whose “migrant origins might be recognized” and on the cultural level: at the crossroads of classic culture and popular oral culture, rap gives new meaning to an often-disregarded notion of popular “literature”.
4Articles by Benoît Facher and Cécile Cristofari finally tackle the subject of the connection between literature and pop culture by analyzing the emergence of new strategies to interpret an evolution in the field of knowledge and the development of new creative practices within “communities” of readers. Benoît Faucher investigates the geek in two of Coupland’s novels, Microserfs and JPod: an interesting character study for anthropological and cultural research as well as for literature, this figure is defined as someone with a excessive passion for a restricted sphere of knowledge. An overview of Coupland’s novels presents this figure’s evolution between the 1990’s and 2000, from the stereotype of an asocial fanatic to the positive incarnation of a reading strategy vital to “the era of cultural overabundance”: the infinite mass of information characterizing our times forces us to establish a center from which knowledge progressively flows out “in a network”. This article looks at the new “strategies of cultural browsing”, emphasizing the importance of a need to substitute the fantasy of total knowledge with a “temporary mastering” of segments of knowledge. Cécile Cristofari then sheds light on the development of “fan fictions” and role play and the ways they allow us to rethink the public’s role: in these practices at the fringe of imaginary literatures, the reader adopts the role of actor, transforming the act of reading into an act of writing. Often elaborated from pre-existing fictional worlds, role play and fan fictions call into question a traditional relationship to the work, be it textual or filmic, as a finalized, closed system in and of itself. These creative practices thus remind us of “a period when the distinction between learned culture and popular culture was weaker and when handing down knowledge was more flexible, in relation to the public”.
5We would especially like to thank our Serbian correspondent, Nadja Duric, who did a terrific job coordinating the dossier “Université Invitée”, devoted to the University of Belgrade with much precision and diplomacy.
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« Editorial », TRANS- [En ligne], 9 | 2010, mis en ligne le 01 février 2010, consulté le 29 avril 2017. URL : http://trans.revues.org/329Haut de page
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