Fringe and Fortune: The Role of Critics in High and Popular Art

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Princeton University Press, Jul 28, 1996 - Art - 284 pages

Why does the distinction between high and popular art persist in spite of postmodernist predictions that it should vanish? Departing from the conventional view that such distinctions are class-related, Wesley Shrum concentrates instead on the way individuals form opinions about culture through the mediation of critics. He shows that it is the extent to which critics shape the reception of an art form that determines its place in the cultural hierarchy. Those who patronize "lowbrow" art--stand-up comedy, cabaret, movies, and popular music--do not heed critical opinions nearly as much as do those who patronize "highbrow" art--theater, opera, and classical music. Thus the role of critics is crucial to understanding the nature of cultural hierarchy and its persistence. Shrum supports his argument through an inquiry into the performing arts, focusing on the Edinburgh Fringe, the world's largest and most diverse art festival.


Beginning with eighteenth-century London playhouses and print media, where performance art criticism flourished, Shrum examines the triangle of mediation involving critics, spectators, and performers. The Fringe is shown to parallel modern art worlds, where choices proliferate along with the demand for guidance. Using interviews with critics and performers, analysis of audiences, and published reviews as well as dramatic vignettes, Shrum reveals the impact of critics on high art forms and explores the "status bargain" in which consumers are influenced by experts in return for prestige.

 

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Fringe and fortune: the role of critics in high and popular art

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Shrum (sociology, Louisiana State Univ.) debunks here the common conception that what distinguishes "high" from "popular" art is the social class of their respective adherents. Instead, he posits the ... Read full review

Fringe and fortune: the role of critics in high and popular art

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Shrum (sociology, Louisiana State Univ.) debunks here the common conception that what distinguishes "high" from "popular" art is the social class of their respective adherents. Instead, he posits the ... Read full review

Contents

A Critics New Clothes
3
THE CRITIC
23
Cultural Mediation and the Status Bargain
25
Critics in the Performing Arts
42
THE FRINGE
61
Development of the Festival Fringe
63
Festivals and the Modern Fringe
83
Myth of the Fringe
109
BEYOND THE FRINGE
179
Beyond Formal Evaluation
181
Discourse and Hierarchy
193
EPILOGUE
213
Review Genres
215
Methodological Note
218
Note on the Study of Mediation and Reception
221
Tables
223

THE TRIANGLE OF MEDIATION
123
Do Critics Matter?
125
Critical Evaluation
144
Do Performers Listen?
165
NOTES
229
BIBLIOGRAPHY
265
INDEX
275
Copyright

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About the author (1996)

Wesley Monroe Shrum, Jr., is Professor of Sociology at Louisiana State University.

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