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Bread and Circuses

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Bread and Circuses

Theories of Mass Culture As Social Decay

Patrick Brantlinger

312 Pages | 15 x 22 inches
Paperback
ISBN: 9780801493386
Cornell University Press

Lively and well written, Bread and Circuses analyzes theories that have treated mass culture as either a symptom or a cause of social decadence. Discussing many of the most influential and representative theories of mass culture, it ranges widely from Greek and Roman origins, through Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Ortega y Gasset, T. S. Eliot, and the theorists of the Frankfurt Institute, down to Marshall McLuhan and Daniel Bell. Brantlinger considers the many versions of negative classicism and shows how the belief in the historical inevitability of social decay—a belief today perpetuated by the mass media themselves—has become the dominant view of mass culture in our time. While not defending mass culture in its present form, Brantlinger argues that the view of culture implicit in negative classicism obscures the question of how the media can best be used to help achieve freedom and enlightenment on a truly democratic basis.

Reviews

"Bread and Circuses is a joy to read. Brantlinger is learned, witty, and, best of all, inviting of conversation."—Voice Literary Supplement

"Bread and Circuses is a valuable analysis of attitudes toward not only mass culture but also theories of social order, utopian (and dystopian) possibilities, and the connections between literature and politics."—Criticism

"Brantlinger's substantial insights are worthy of reflection—insights, for example, on the equivocal position of religion vis-à-vis elitism and mass culture or the hitherto insufficiently noted recurrence of classicist nostalgia in essentially nonclassicist ages. The book remains useful and thought-provoking."—American Historical Review

About the Author

Patrick Brantlinger is James Rudy Professor of English (Emeritus) at Indiana University. He is the author of many books, including Dark Vanishings, Fictions of State, Rule of Darkness, and Bread and Circuses, all from Cornell.

This work can be downloaded for non-commercial purposes:

Creative Commons License
Bread and Circuses is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.