From its origin, cultural studies has had an ambivalent relationship to modernism. One of the founding missions of the field was, after all, to overcome an ideology of high culture often associated with the movement. Yet cultural studies scholars have been divided about how to treat mass cultural products—the middlebrow novel, comic books, pop music. Whereas analyzing mass cultural products on aesthetic grounds risked reinforcing modernism’s aesthetic ideology, studying them solely within a sociological frame risked ceding the category of the aesthetic altogether. Indeed, one way of understanding postmodernism is as a series of failed efforts to reimagine the modernism–mass culture dialectic. As postmodernism has come to seem exhausted, the effort to map this dialectic has taken on a renewed urgency. Though different in subject matter and critical sensibility, the three books under review here each attempt to remap the modernism–mass culture...

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