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June 15 2004

Pop Culture 101: The Science of Broomsticks Brief mentions of Buffy and the 'father of Buffy studies' Middle Tennessee State University English Professor David Lavery who states: "It becomes harder by the year to teach Shakespeare, but I donít want to give up. I just want to include Buffy."

But the literature professor thinks there's room for both "high" and "low" culture at the university level.
"It becomes harder by the year to teach Shakespeare, but I donít want to give up. I just want to include Buffy."

I study both these topics as a second year university student in Australia.
I'm a committed student of Communication, media, and cultural studies. I've studied The Simpsons, and Buffy, and contemporary and classic film. And while a lot of people think theses are courses that focus on fluff and have little substance, they're very wrong.

Studying cultural texts like these comes in relation with heavy cultural, sociological, and philosophical theory. I'm currently putting together an essay on Buffy, fandom as pathology, audience theory and fanfiction. While it's fun to study a text I adore, it's not exactly easy!

Statements like this one from Klein:
But he also fears the dumbing down of true academic study.
"You're risking engaging them on a level where it no longer is what it is. If it's a cartoon itís not a real moving body in the universe," he said.

Tend to anger me. A cartoon should not be discounted as having cultural merit (but obviously some contain more than others). Every pop/high culture creation is a reflection of the society from which it springs, and people should be mindful of that.

Lavery is now my hero:
"It's astonishing how quickly people reject this stuff before they experience it," he said. "The concern is that if students are given the choice, you know what they're gonna choose. Film classes fill up on first day. Seventeenth-century drama does not."
It's really frustrating to hear people talking down about these innovative ways of study, and I cop it a lot. It's good to hear a positive view, if only in a couple of statements!

And yes, it is fun, and that's certainly part of the appeal - I do a lot of dry subjects about media policy and law, and it's nice to be able to incorporate the study of texts I enjoy into a sometimes very heavy degree.
Good on ya Flair! My bachelor's degree consisted largely of Renaissance French literature (some of which is actually pretty racy), the 19th century Russian novel, and translation theory. Sure would have loved some Whedon in the mix.

Still, I have to ask: what does "where it no longer is what it is?" actually mean? Does "it" stand for "true academic study"? Could we have that in some language that's actually English?
I think, SoddingNancyTribe, what he's referring to is reading too much into popular culture, over-reaching for reasons to study it academically. I think he's suggesting that you can take it too far, stretching the text too much by looking for something to say about it...Reading academic and intellectual messages into it that aren't really there, and such.
This is a pretty common way of thinking in academia sometimes, which is a real pity.

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