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The Technomyth in Transition: Reading American Popular Culture

  • Gaile McGregor (a1)

In the opening pages of his 1971 study, Politics as Symbolic Action, Murray Edelman underlines his belief that “psychological characteristics, social interaction, and political acts are alternative expressions of the same phenomenon.” In the discussion that follows, however, he tacitly privileges the political aspect of the transaction to an extent that quite undermines his initial image of an interdependent network of reactive/responsive processes. The bias is an understandable one, given his anxiety to counter the naive view of “governmental acts as reflections of people's cognitions.” It is also, unfortunately, a problematic one, insofaras its implication of a self-consciously Machiavellian political leadership deliberately manipulating public affect to its own ends simply substitutes for one misapprehension another equally naive.

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1 Politics as Symbolic Action (Chicago: Markham, 1971), 6.

2 Ibid., 41.

3 “The Rhetoric of the American Western Myth,” Communication Monographs, 50 (1983), 14.

4 “Archetypal Alloy: Reagan's Rhetorical Image,” in Browne Ray B. and Fishwick Marshall W., eds., The Hero in Transition (Bowling Green: The Popular Press, 1983), 267.

5 “Structuralism and Popular Culture,” Journal of Popular Culture, 7 (1974), 761.

6 “The Myth of Superman,” in The Role of the Reader (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979), 123.

7 Introduction to “Machines, Myths, and Marxism,” in Teresa de Lauretis, Andreas Huyssen, and Kathleen Woodward, eds., The Technological Imagination: Theories and Fictions (Madison: Coda Press, 1980), 80.

8 See Henry Nash Smith, Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth (New York: Vintage, 1950); also Richard Slotkin, Regeneration through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860 (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973).

9 Frank Herbert, Dune (New York: Berkeley, 1965), 284.

10 Structural Fabulation: An Essay on Fiction of the Future (Notre Dame and London: University of Notre Dame Press, 1975), 68.

11 The Adventurer (New York: Basic Books, 1974), 234.

12 “Romances, Novels and Psychoanalysis,” Criticism, 17 (1975), 21.

13 Structural Fabulation, 5.

14 John Cawelti, Adventure, Mystery, and Romance: Formula Stories as Art and Popular Culture (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1976), 35.

15 John Huntington, “Science Fiction and the Future,” in Mark Rose, ed., Science Fiction: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1976), 159.

16 For representative views see Adorno T. W., “Television and the Patterns of Mass Culture,” in Bernard Rosenberg and David Manning White, eds., Mass Culture: The Popular Arts in America (New York: The Free Press, 1957), 474–88, and Marcuse Herbert, One-Dimensional Man (London: Sphere Books, 1968); see also discussions in Bigsby C. W. E., Approaches to Popular Culture (London: Edward Arnold, 1976), Jay Martin, The Ideological Imagination (London: Heinemann, 19733), and Andreas Huyssen in de Lauretis et al.

17 Roger Elwood and Virginia Kidd, eds., The Wounded Planet (New York: Bantam, 1974), ix.

18 Walker Robert H., “Patterns in Recent American Literature,” in Hague John A., ed., American Character and Culture in a Changing World: Some Twentieth-Century Perspectives (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1979), 69.

19 “Certain Assistances: The Utilities of Speculative Fictions in Shaping the Future,” Mosaic, 13 (1980), 10.

20 Meyersohn Rolf B., “Social Research in Television,” in Rosenberg and White, 353.

21 Rollin Roger R., “The Lone Ranger and Lenny Skutnik: The Hero as Popular Culture,” in Browne and Fishwick, 25.

22 See Fiedler Leslie A., “The Middle against Both Ends,” in Rosenberg and White, 537–47.

23 “Between Consciousness and Existence: Popular Culture and the Sociological Imagination,” Journal of Popular Culture, 15 (1982), 86.

24 See also Roger Rollin, 42–44.

25 Barbu Zev, “Popular Culture: A Sociological Approach,” in Bigsby, 4849.

26 See Lévi-Strauss Claude, “The Story of Asdiwal,” in Edmund Leach, ed., The Structural Study of Myth and Totemism (London: Tavistock, 1968), 4970.

27 Roger Rollin, 39.

28 See Wymer Stanley, “Perception and Value in Science Fiction,” in Thomas Clareson, ed., Many Futures, Many Worlds: Theme and Form in Science Fiction (Kent State University Press, 1977), 113.

29 Hillegas Mark, The Future as Nightmare: H. G. Wells and the Anti-Utopians (Carbonville and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967), 59.

30 Wells H. G., Men Like Gods (Toronto: Macmillan, 1923), 107.

31 Clareson Thomas, Many Futures, Many Worlds, 17.

32 Asimov Isaac, “Social Science Fiction,” in Damon Knight, ed., Turning Points: Essays on the Art of Science Fiction (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), especially 39–43.

33 For specific references, see the annotated bibliography in Richard Erlich and Thomas Dunn, eds., Clockwork Worlds: Mechanized Environments in SF (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1983), 263ff.

34 Walker , “Patterns in Recent American Fiction,” 78.

35 See, for instance, Kolodny Annette, The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975).

36 See Scholes , Structural Fabulation, 8182.

37 Jacques Lemieux, “Utopias and Social Relations in American Science Fiction,” trans. Ronald Rosenthal, SF Studies, 12 (1985), 152.

38 William Nelson, “Unlikely Heroes: The Central Figures in The World According to Garp, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and A Confederacy of Dunces,” in Browne and Fishwick, 170.

39 “Science Fiction, New Trends and Old,” in Reginald Bretnor, ed., Science Fiction, Today and Tomorrow (Baltimore: Penguin, 1974), 222.

40 Beyond the Wasteland: A Study of the American Novel in the Nineteen-Sixties (New Haven & New York: Yale University Press), 223.

41 Ibid., 222.

42 “As the Wall Crumbles,” in James Gunn, ed., Nebula Award Stories Ten (Notre Dame & London: University of Notre Dame Press), 102.

43 The Adventurer, 249.

44 Ibid., 20.

45 Adventure, Mystery, and Romance, 16.

46 The Shattered Ring (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1970), 51.

47 See Poul Anderson, “The Art of Robert Erving Howard,” in de Camp L. Sprague, ed., The Blade of Conan (New York: Ace, 1979), 7996.

48 See Gary Hoppenstand, “Pulp Vigilante Heroes, the Moral Majority, and the Apocalypse,” in Browne and Fishwick, 148–49.

49 “Eutopias and Dystopias in Science Fiction, 1950–75,” in Roehmer Kenneth M., ed., America as Utopia (New York: Burt Franklin, 1981), 349.

50 “Coming Home a Hero: The Changing Image of the Vietnam Vet on Prime Time Television,” Journal of Popular Film and Television, 13 (1985), 25.

51 Ibid., 29.

52 The Technological Society, trans. John Wilkinson (New York: Knopf, 1967), 4.

53 The Myth of the Machine, Vol. 1, Technics and Human Development (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1966), 3.

54 See, for instance, Ingersoll Daniel W. Jr, “Machines Are Good to Think: A Structural Analysis of Myth and Mechanization,” in Erlich and Dunn, 235262.

55 Slade Joseph W., “American Writers and American Inventions: Cybernetic Discontinuity in Pre-World War II Literature,” in De Lauretis, Huyssen, and Woodward, 28.

56 Ibid., 46.

57 “Utopias and Social Relations,” 153.

58 The Creation of Tomorrow: Fifty Years of Magazine Science Fiction (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977), 8283.

59 “American Victorianism as a Culture,” American Quarterly, 27 (1975), 522.

60 Leo Ribuffo, ed., American Quarterly (special issue on contemporary America), 35 (1983), 9.

61 “Politics,” in Ribuffo, 29.

62 “1984: Are We There?,” Salmagundi, 65 (1984), 5162.

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Journal of American Studies
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  • EISSN: 1469-5154
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