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Interrogating ‘Shakespop’: the Politics of Tasteful Pop Culture

Laboni Bhattacharya

Department of English, Hindu College, University of Delhi. ORCID: 0000-0002-9758-3235. Email: laboni.bhattacharya@gmail.com

Volume 9, Number 1, 2017 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v9n1.08

Received February 24, 2017; Revised April 14, 2017; Accepted April 30, 2017; Published May 7, 2017.

Abstract

This paper will explore the phenomenon of Shakespop, or pop-cultural referentiality  to Shakespeare’s work (Lanier, 2002) as a category that seemingly unites Shakespeare’s authorial legacy and high cultural values with popular forms like TV, comics, YouTube videos, etc in a transgressive manner. Some examples I analyse are the Sassy Gay Friend Youtube series, Shakespeare breath mints and Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics (1989 -). I examine them as cultural objects that deploy the dynamic tension between good taste and bad, the erudite and the base. Is the vigorous appropriation and parodic inversion of Shakespeare in popular culture a genuine deconstruction of his cultural significance? A celebratory attitude would argue that postmodernity has freed Shakespeare from his high-cultural moorings. Taking up Jostein Gripsrud’s theorization of ‘double-access’, I would argue that postmodern proliferation of Shakespop  is not an inherently democratizing phenomenon, but one that conceals its origins in access, material privilege and power.

Keywords: cultural studies, popular culture, Shakespeare, double access, class privilege, cultural capital.

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