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Does the highlighted section imply "it is the medium that gives meaning to things"?


Context:

While early critical theorists were keen to restrict this transcendent or emancipatory potential to high or serious art, younger critical theorists are more open to the possibility that some artifacts of popular culture might also contain something of the same. For the classical Frankfurt School, however, meaning is given in the medium and popular culture is manufactured meaning.

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cattttDoes the highlighted section imply "it is the medium that gives meaning to things"?

I don't think they're saying that the medium literally gives meaning to things. I'd say that "meaning is given in the medium" here means something more like "a certain kind of meaning is (almost unconsciously) understood or expected which varies according to the medium that communicates it".

If the medium is a radio performance of a heavy metal rock band, we interpret its meaning differently — have completely different expectations about its meaning — than if the medium is a live performance of symphony orchestra which we pay to attend in a large hall. Or at least that's true according to the "classical Frankfurt School", though the "younger critical theorists" don't seem so convinced of it.

Opinions may vary on this.

CJ

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Comments  
cattttDoes the highlighted section imply "the real meaning exists in the medium but popular culture is just a kind of manufactured (non-genuine) meaning"?

I guess so. You're back reading some more heady stuff, I see. The meaning that popular culture assigns to a work of art is not "transcendent or emancipatory" but created by hype.

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 CalifJim's reply was promoted to an answer.

That's weird. The section I quoted no longer appears in the OP.

anonymous

That's weird. The section I quoted no longer appears in the OP.

I, too, was wondering why I couldn't find it anywhere when I took a look to answer it. The OP must have edited the question between your answer and mine. Emotion: tongue tied

CJ

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cattttWhile early critical theorists were keen to restrict this transcendent or emancipatory potential to high or serious art, younger critical theorists are more open to the possibility that some artifacts of popular culture might also contain something of the same. For the classical Frankfurt School, however, meaning is given in the medium and popular culture is manufactured meaning.

I'm a non-native.

I can't understand the paragraph above at all. I wonder whether it could even be put in plain English. For me, it is put in such a twisted wording that I've given up grasping the sense of it.

anonymousI can't understand the paragraph above at all. I wonder whether it could even be put in plain English.

It is "scholarly" writing on an arcane topic. I can't say that even I completely understand it, partly because I am not familiar with the terms and partly because there is no context, so I can't see the things referred to, but

"While early critical theorists"

He seems to be talking about art criticism, where erudite people discuss the merits of works of art and the effect those works have in the wider world and on art itself. The early critics are the ones who worked in the old days, and it sounds like he has already mentioned them.

"were keen to restrict this transcendent or emancipatory potential to high or serious art,"

He says "this", which means that he talked about it earlier in the book. Apparently, the early critics spoke of the potential art has to work on the human psyche or on society, in other words, under the right conditions, a work of art can change a person or the world by being "transcendent" (look it up at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/transcendent ), probably the Kantian word, or "emancipatory" (you can look that up, too, but it basically means that it frees something, the mind, for instance). These early critics strictly confined themselves to critiquing "high or serious" art, such as fine oils or marble sculpture.

"younger critical theorists are more open to the possibility that some artifacts of popular culture might also contain something of the same."

The new crop of critics have in some measure moved away from the old ways, and are thinking about applying the same ideas to the things in popular culture, perhaps granting Lady Gaga the same dignity as Rembrandt, if you will. The writer is being wishy-washy with "open to the possibility". He doesn't say who is open to exactly what in what way.

"For the classical Frankfurt School, however,"

"The term 'Frankfurt School' is an informal term used to designate the thinkers affiliated with the Institute for Social Research" - http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Frankfurt_School

That is a bunch of German Marxists from the early twentieth century. This seems to be the topic of his paragraph.

"meaning is given in the medium"

Now we get to it. This is a sample of the sort of language art critics use. It is not normal English. I interpret it as "the art speaks for itself". A work of art has meaning, ideally. This meaning is presented in concrete form, be it cast bronze or oral poetry, in its medium. The meaning is within the artwork and is transmitted through the medium.

"and popular culture is manufactured meaning."

In popular culture, meaning is assigned to the work after the fact. Any deeper effects it produces are brought about by the hype and publicity and image-making that accrue to it. Maybe. Like I said, I'm no expert on all this.

anonymousI can't understand the paragraph above at all. ... For me, it is put in such a twisted wording that I've given up grasping the sense of it.

Join the club. Emotion: smile

(I'm a native speaker.)

CJ

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Sorry at the same time you were answering my question I was editing it.

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