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When I hear the usual thing of romantics denial of the realities of modern life I think that this thing is actually what is the modern life the author of Dreams and I can sense she when I was just a small I was stuck with sea of cultural card in a shanty yet side by side with this committee of intellectuals with the mass patches because I am Mass color at best mid called and see no hope of ever becoming a member of that nebulous group insane with high culture that I thought I was being sneered at by some agony over. And then he said with number two not surprised when I was left stuck in the agreeable ooze of the swamp I suppose he means a fine bag the whole bucket list and that Nobel Prize as a private joke. Wrong. You are listening to Dwight McDonald on film during the past decade Mr. McDonald has been perhaps the senior critic among American film critics. And during this past year he was distinguished visiting
professor of film history on criticism at the University of Texas. These programs were drawn from that lecture series. Now here is the conclusion of a discussion begun last week on Mr MacDonald's essay mass cult and mad cult. And now once again here is Dwight MacDonald. Now the thing that a lot of people wrote about was that the faces of unrealistic reaction are utopian not as tall or goings not as well that covered a lot of ground. And the face of one that. Cast my eye on it has the tone of the essay cause me to think the author believed he was God the author of the conclusions and announces them as they were read by the brilliant thinker the deity I don't mind. But then he says perhaps he would have done well to use the fake biblical prophet Hemingway Wow and I. Finally have time to read this I like this by much. A most modest proposal in support of MacDonald's mass call the cult the whole thing is a patio Swift's modest proposal for solving the problem of
starvation an island which you probably already member and have a modest proposal comes down to phrase classify all the acts of God as time in a mass and so high will be defined of course as out which the committee feels to be most worthwhile. Next class why are citizens as high as high citizens will be those who agree with the committee's definitions Midwood because about as I would agree in part with the committee but to some deficiency and cerebrum material will fail to see the complete lighting growly of high culture citizens classified as mass will be those who are incapable of Anjou appreciation of the supreme and that have no concept of truth beauty and goodness as is known only in and through conscious. At last after this election a convocation must be made to ensure that neither the individual and other works are allowed to contact one another. The high standards and quality of the high culture ones not be influenced by mere human will and pleasure. All of these citizens that is those of the mass culture will no longer be called people and all people members of the mid culture will be disciplined civilly. And if they
are found seeking to encroach upon destroy or inquire into the system of the individual the illustrious members of high culture. I submit this proposal as I've got the inspiration I found reading the profound truly humanistic approach to the severe plague of our nation and world by drag me down into. The. Trap that got of demagoguery really. Well you see you all get this idea that I'm a snob and that I want to prevent people from going into this. Actually I can see this whole question of the elite as it is a kind of a club but it's a club that anybody can join you want to take the trouble to. You know to be interested in any of these fellows and far from wanting to keep high culture away from the masses not of the world. You see there are two things involved offensive all the actual historical situation has been for 200 years that the masses are not in contact with high culture and even when I think that they get in kind of by the debased ruggedized form of it and do damage the high culture anything that is a historical
fact is also a fact that we've always had in order to have any culture at all we've always had to have this kind of an exclusive snobbish of Bond God which turns its back on the masses and on the marketplace and does right according to the traditions which they feel are important and whatever field of audit risk. I mean these are facts and right now you say when I talk about two cultures in America and that's what we should have I could equally well have said that's what we do have because the fact is that in literature the fact is that Robert Lowell and saw about Norman Mailer do not write for the mass or the middle public the fact that some of them are popular and recognize and so on has nothing to do with the question. But the fact is that I don't write for this public. And the fact is in fact another serious creative rights delivery for this product. If I run for any public it's a public of their peers and this is a small public and my argument is not to keep out people but just to give them the right name to the thing I mean don't miss talk about culture if we
don't mean it. If we do mean culture then let's be extremely well as a snobbish discriminatory but anyway let's be extremely strict in what we call it. That quotation from Elliot in my essay in which he says exactly this he says if you really think that culture is incompatible with a democratic society then in that case alright that's fine but say so. You know I mean maybe you have to give up cause you're not a have a democratic society but anyway don't call it culture. But it's not keeping anybody out as Father I'm concerned. Well here's the usual thing of romantics denial of the realities of modern life. I think that this thing is actually what is the modern life the author dreams that I can sense she when I was just a small I was stuck was e of cultural Karna Shanti got side by side with this committee of intellectuals was the master and someone she says ascending the idea he patches because I am Mass color at best mid called and see no hope of ever becoming a member of that nebulous group concerned with high culture. I saw I didn't mean to make it all so difficult and so sort of absurd this way
now. I thought I was being sneered at by some arrogant overload. And then he said with Nobel and Pulitzer Prize winners left stuck in the agreeable of the swamp I suppose he means that Steinbeck a bucket list and that Nobel Prize is a private joke I mean you can't go into that but I mean they have given about 50 Awards for Literature and most of them have been to people in fact if you go back to around 100 as you would be surprised if you never heard of these people. It doesn't mean anything in fact Nobel Prize any place I can name without fear of a sneer as being really high culture is Mr. McDonnell himself. I should be content to eavesdrop and have my tapes Framley you know I'd rather be in the botched by Hemingway and bend that passage because I'm so damnably American. Well that's kind of Madeleine and I don't give up I mean sure he's American. Sure he's American so my American in fact when I go abroad everybody thinks I'm the most tired American Philistine and there are brown but a lot of you think that the. Several I do not like your
condescending tone I thought it was a rather genial town I. I think that mask of in that cut I think that these guys like Mike Lee I do get awful funny I don't know Rikon is something I got right down to date and God's done with them I don't know what I mean is condescending. I do not feel you really would like to have everything right at the level of high culture wow I'm sure I would have response to call to be any more individual if I want a high level of coarseness at least now we have a county with three to choose from and I'm in favor of this put out of their culture and I try to make it clear that when I said here I said let the masses have their culture and let us have our culture and don't interfere with each other when on a definite there was this attempt to but attended everybody's in the same culture. Why must be found for liking country and western music. Don't try to put us all up by the bootstraps satisfaction is where you find it well I don't find counting rest amusing by interesting and I think I could go on for some time saying why not but I'm not going to try to prevent
anybody from there when if I want to but let's call it by their real names down but then it is then that they were conscious he was and that colors my overt that they haven't got any place high culture not of us not of their own. As Madonna speaks of the harp on a one of legislation just the contrary I am an anarchist I'm against any kind of laws and regulations. He thinks that of the proper afoul of these I think this lose that power to impose standards then the quantity of human expression will suffer considerably No you can't of course you're right you can't create a culture by legislation by imposing standards of course you can't. In fact the Alexandrian experience is that I mean the decadence of classical and Roman literature and thought in the days when it's now become active when the Alexandrian scholars took over when it became a matter of scholarship. Of course not it has to be something alive but what I find odd is that you don't say how much more alive somebody like Robert Lowell is you know to read him and more interesting more genial and exciting than let's say.
Phyllis McGinley who would be an example of eyes but as a poet s who communicates with a large number of people. Now finally somebody did get my point. And she said I think the bribers action of specialization or observation is exactly what Mr. Madonna saying throughout mascot and that got the author for a pluralistic society in which there exists a cultural right leap to appreciate high culture and the masses to enjoy a mascot. I have faced construed as being basically a play for me trying to feudalism so to speak. However Now here is an intelligent girl she's really is thank you. However upon the completion of my reading of the prior book this idea was dispelled and was replaced with the realization that Mr McDonnell is advocating precisely that the existence of a pluralistic culture consisting of a cultural elite and the masses each with their respective conscious. Well I mean a genius a genius because you're not sure about the book. That's exactly what I said in the book it seems to me. I went over again and I'm now accused of all the
time a band I'm sorry to get so worked up about this but I'm a been accused of actually trying to keep the masses out of cultural stuff in one of the more I don't know I just don't think that ever going to be interested in. Now first off your own essay is mid call and Stalin thought well there's a certain point there too I must say I'll get back to more sophisticated reviews all took this line that I'm attacking something of which I'm a pot. At the very hot there's a style that appeases the masses a propensity for names like mask called and kitsch Well Kitch is a German time that I took over from a green bag and which is not my own invention as a private good why I want to have in the world like this and I'm asking because I do agree have a little bit of the popular showman about them that's true. Names was neither enriched the meaning of the thing that represent no challenge or to discover which symbolism Well of course just because a mascot amid colors that it got so damn bowing to all the mass culture of middle culture or something and it seems to me that also was that pejorative terms I was never in that process to some ghastly view was that I should
really consistently also have a time high culture. H I see you well to me that's right so many fads and so on. Sincere piece of kitsch if you must. Somebody else oh dear I hate to give damning examples but really it's hard not to ask who you think you are. I find phrases like took its cue something clicks Cassian ignoramuses cognoscenti what's wrong with ignoramuses in God a shiny penny that was ignition. I made that up but you can see what it means. I raise on debt what the devil is wrong with that so it's a very good French expression. Limp and avant garde I'm proud of that. You gotta live. Yes but you see I use lying in a certain way I mean you see I didn't get the point of a mid cutwater very painful to watch somebody lash himself with his own whip. Your criticism of the ever present prevent skin so on is what one responded that he said I know it was an amount of amusement that mascot amid gout was written
for the weekly Bible of mass cult us out and post this in just a minute you might be trying to up the standards of thought of mascot which is an insane thing. Not to have such progress hopeless but your vocabulary is for comprehension. There were Gunsmoke audience and so forth. Your approach is too insulting it seems to me that either you had good intentions and bad judgement or you gladly accepted them money and other cheek. Look the point is that this doesn't understand that we have had a cultural explosion hit since 1945. Revolution when you want to call it and that the sun you post is part of this fact the Post has at the time they have asked me to write this thing the Post had a whole department called dissenting opinion I was a called speaking out yes speaking out and I got people like I'm a green dragon perhaps come back I don't know I got everybody to write these things for them. I had them very well because they saw that there was an audience even in their publication that most of the Vedas and you shouldn't think of the readers of any mass circulation
magazine as being I hum with genius Halder all kinds of different levels of readership. And so therefore they saw that it was possible to commission is kind of things and I certainly didn't write down the article for the readers. You can use any magazine as a vehicle I mean ask why why not after all you could criticize that TO has been done in fact in my case yes but after all it has eight hundred nine hundred thousand it is well so I was really writing for the 50000 of them. That's plenty big enough for me and I don't buy for the other ones. Well the game aspect we are going into. And I've apologized for that. And. Well the fact that Mitt got as many bad ought and I've dealt with that I think no definition of high culture. Yeah I think that with that too. Yes. And then finally kind of a confusion between what you might call the style and subject or approach and subject a number of papers seem to think that I advocate serious riders and movie makers and Pyatt is not dealing with popular
subjects one of course that's not the case at all I mean Joyce's Ulysses is a perfect example of that what could be a more prosaic and down to a popular subject than the wanderings of Mr. Leopold Bloom and Dublin and Joyce was fascinated by the culture of the masses as I am for that matter. It's one of the thing that began to be interested in movies but that's a question of the subject matter that's not a question of the ready to treat it. And then have somebody says a curious combination of high culture and mascot represented by such popular figures as Bob Dylan and The Beatles. Dylan with his best party represents the combination of high culture literary endeavor and mascot Rock n Roll Hall of Beatles produce across this very very good film called Days Night. I agree with this but the confusion is that you can be proper in the subject matter but you can do it in a more experimental right. In other words a new society should be adding that if people found out that believe the common man is able to criticize or analyze the design of the good and the bad from South but is potentially able to accept
and adjust the dictation of the cultural intelligentsia by the same thing the slippage of power and control in the hands of this intelligentsia is what concerns me. Donald. McDonald quotes Ray's web eccentric definition of a pirate which is a pirate is a man speaking to other men. Can't say anything. Egocentric rather what's egocentric about that but neglects to mention the pipers and method which the author outlined in the same article preface to Lyrical Ballads and here we got the same confusion as his palms concern incidents and situations in common life humble and rustic life and utilizes language used by men. That's true across his great innovation and his day ways with was of course a avant garde experimentalist and poetic diction because he too either brought a whole lot of official 18th century poetic diction that Pope and his successors had inflicted on the English language and not just had a pipeline extremely good but this kind of thing I've gotten somewhat. Alexander and Wordsworth did bring the palm down to the language of everyday life and it was a great thing but it was seemed to me that in
doing this he was exercising a high degree of sophisticated self-consciousness that and criticism. That he was not just sentimentally interested in the every day life but he was actually breaking out new pants. Here's a critic this is out of general miscellaneous things I'm almost finished. Here's a critic that has a couple of minor flaws in it as well I always said of the rather But then I've been to some point but the second one is the correct spelling of them of the product you mention on pages trying to write as Jallow dash rather than all run right job. Well I guess that's what I'm going to change that. Never had this. This writer did the usual thing why can't anybody spell Edgar Allen Poe's middle name. I'm writing the book on powers modified right now in time by Concha this you know it's spelled the wrong way more than it's about the right way I mean it obviously should be spelled Alan should be better than any but this because after criticizing me for not spelling jello he spelled Alan with an ease. This is not right.
When I was a very common mistake I remember Adam Wilson when I was then pausing you years ago we published and I say buy on tight on Paul and we consistently spelled it with an easy shot. You know on the running heads and Wilson wrote a note to is sad. Any adult those who don't know how to spell a name of economic policy and be running a literary magazine this is in a general historical point you stated that ROM of the part of time Rabbit produced no mascot. Yet I can see the power structure and the ROM of the second century in the civilization of today. Rom of the second century was governed by the needs enticed of an urban part of it. It also had an educated bureaucracy that manipulated a welfare state educated cultivated group of families and out of religious tolerance and free and attainments. Here then was the ideal condition of the mass media and this is true as a matter of fact the UN differentiated broader urban products hungering for excitement and a time Coliseum was filled with seasons and a time for mourning tonight this was the part of the mass media created to
gratify that mass culture in a broad pageant of an urban mob. The similarities between that mascot and out of Oz are innumerable. I think is based on a fear the people in power losing popularity suburbanite of judgment to drag down moment is dragged on us also. The difference I think between ourselves as far as the masses is inside and why I said that I didn't have a mass and I sense it is simply this that the Roman proletariat was a subject class it was not that good in the eyes as having any right or ability to intervene in the processes of government they were a subject class whereas the masses since the French Revolution the American Revolution and the great innovation of popular education the masses now consider that the basis of the political power of the state and of course we know that this is not true in a way of course you can't have a state run by a hundred and eighty million people but still Johnson and presidents and so on do recognize that their validity comes from the masses
rather than a case of Rome. This was cited not the case in fact the Emperor was the one that ran things and he simply threw these crumbs to the proletariat so therefore the proletariat had no influence at all on Roman literature and on. Well as the masses today I do have an influence now going back a little bit father. The reason that we do have masses in the last 200 years and I couldn't have masses then is quite simply that we have. Beginning with the industrial revolution I'm sounding 50 to 100. We have the means for support in vastly greater numbers of people. And this combined with the French and American revolutions in the late 19th century which for the first time put forward the idea that everybody in a society not just the ruling people but everybody has a right to the same things. This has resulted in the present situation. If somebody here objects is a number of papers did to the footnotes they said in this relatively short essay of standing on page
18 footnotes averaging 16 lines each one is quite long and Bob isn't quite the middle it probably got to drop down to Ralph. This is just a thing of mine I could never understand why footnotes are considered by every editor of a popular magazine The New Yorker won't let me use them Esquire won't let me use them. They considered them somehow pedantic and upsetting to the read it. I think on the contrary I think footnotes are actually a marvelous thing very exciting. In fact when I read a scholarly book I always with the footnotes first and you generally find that much of the most interesting things occurred in the footnotes because in a footnote you're completely free of this hyar. Plot that you have to you don't have to do this structure in writing an essay and you get away from the plot and you can then decide what you think and without any bother about how it fits in except in a rough way it seems to me the footnote should be considered in writing should be considered as kind of the way that a certain the particular town of bright yellow or something might be in a
painting that you need something to take you out of the mainstream of the thing and you shouldn't take them too seriously either and in this present said that I'm so proud of that he or she thought that my logic was practical and compassion and she couldn't give up to look at a footnote but anyway that's my defense about footnotes I thought about this quite a lot. Well Roger caliber very cut and it comes from sloppily to find times the essay progressive two contradictory statements and irrelevant examples. Oh yes but then now this is pretty bad and then I mean imagine writing is that when I got to teach it well all get well and she took me seriously all too often though this even this person says the footnotes I'm more enlightened than a text. Well the defense rests. Yes so she got the point anyway. In a sudden and backhanded right why do you imagine that the great literature others come to us for the past consists of a few great works out of an abundance of mediocrity another student writes You assume that has not been the case in music and quotes the distinction between them had no point.
Instruments played real music then for there was no other. But now we have pianos playing rock and row and quote This is interesting as a historical aside you have with this statement set up that there the rock involved is trash music as a new thing this is erroneous I will limit myself to the period to which you refer to gothic twelve hundred fourteen fifty I don't know I was referring to that period. But anyway I of course much of the time that it wasn't written down. There are a few written pieces such as children's songs ballads and so on have been preserved. However the point these pieces may sound was that repetitive and dire for the most part and sadly are not musically anywhere near the level of the liturgical music. Yet these are the popular pieces of the time. Now it seems to me I mean it's a very interesting point but it seem to me that I took care of that when I pointed out that go to any great museum and you'll find most of the pictures are rather mediocre. I mean they're not very good. I agree here that I mean I'm sure this is the case here. The difference though is that in this mass culture been his own last 200 years that you have things which are not just figures because they're
being now or because they're just an uninspired way repeating what other artists and composers have done but their faith is right because they really are not on at all because that is really trying to do something else. It's not a question of an uninspired artist it's a question of somebody who maybe often much brighter and more competent than many bad authors trying to sell stuff to a mass market I won't go into it but I did make that at some length I think. On page 11 you state you believe in the potentiality of ordinary people around a main point seems to be that these people are happy to run the muck at them. Well now this was brought up to by a number of people and I'd like to say this about that because they also said Wow do you think that the common people man has potentialities and yet you say that he will never not more than 10 to 20 percent of the masses of the great majority the population will ever be interested in serious or not so let's disregard them. Well now trying to make it clear that when I talk about the masses that this is a very
abstract and theoretical construction and that no individual can ever be called completely a mass man because to be completely a mass man would be that you would have no ties whatsoever except to some general abstract political party some television program some series of magazines newspapers and otherwise to the lowest common denominator the manipulators of the mass whether cultural or political aiming for. So in other words everybody has in him saying some thing the masked man and that certainly includes me because I do go to. Terrible movies and I even sneakingly enjoyed the sound of music somewhat. I mean I didn't rush out of the theater as I sometimes do. So I mean I have to say and then we all have but none of us is completely defined in this way. That's the point this is a very abstract thing it's not to be applied to anything visual and therefore by the same reasoning I would say that any individual whether
educated or not educated has sight and potentialities and the homage thing about mass culture and metal about culture its close relation is that they don't exploit these potentialities they don't appeal to them they appeal to this lowest common denominator. Well I think that's all that I have to tell you I just want to enclose in a sort of positive note. One student writes A big call doesn't facti culture which is sad but a theory that plays into the hands of the Smaug will not remedy that. If we take Saudi on as genial outlook the whole thing is not as sad as Macdonald makes it seem and the record quote from Saudi on ahead without great man and without clear convictions this age is nevertheless very active intellectually. It is studious empirical inventive sympathetic its wisdom consists in a stagnant country openness of mind. It flounders but at least in floundering it has gained a sense of possible depths in all directions. Under these circumstances some triviality and great confusion and its positive achievements are
not on promising things nor even an amiable. Yes and I think that's a very good thing and I probably should have made it clear in the essay but the fact is that I did it myself constantly interested and simulated by products of mass concept. Not that I give up my credit that it's possible you and I write this down I think it's possible to about criticize and also be interested in something and I think we do have a bad day and I do hope we will continue to have both mass culture. I got it. You have been listening to wright MacDonald on film in this program you heard the conclusion of a discussion begun last week on Mr MacDonald's essay bass called an MIT cult. These programs were drawn from Mr. MacDonald's lecture series during his recent tenure as distinguished visiting professor of film history and criticism at the University of Texas. This series was produced by a communications center the University of Texas for national
Dwight Macdonald on film
Masscult and midcult
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University of Texas
KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Masscult and Midcult, continued
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Series of lectures by Dwight Macdonald on film: its makers, its history, its future.
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Announcer: Miller, Phil
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Producing Organization: University of Texas
Producing Organization: KUT (Radio station : Austin, Tex.)
Speaker: Macdonald, Dwight
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