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Intellectual identity and the culture industry: Critical thought about intellectuals and mass culture from Adorno to Seinfeld

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(Thesis) M.A.
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intellectual Identity and the Culture Industry: Critical Thought about Inte11'ectuals and Mass Culture discusses the life of the intellect and the intellectual as they relate, or fail to relate to, the problems of mass culture. In Chapter One, I evaluate the work of Theodor W. Adorno. I consider Adorno's critique of jazz as the prototype for his formidable assault on the culture industry at large and its role in the downfall of intellectual discourse. I identify comedy as a potentially subversive strain within mass culture. I advance what is not so much a methodological or historical approach to intellectuals and mass culture, but an attitude toward the phenomena under investigation, one that is, following Adorno, both uncompromising and intellectually rigorous. Chapter Two charts the fate of the intellectual both in and outside of ac:ademia, particularly as addressed by critiques of The Last Intellectuals. Russell Jacoby, Andrew Ross, Richard A. Posner and Noam Chomsky are discussed in terms of intellectual life in our time. Chapter Three surveys the mass cultural landscape, singling out the television comedy Seinfeld as exemplary of the best of what mass culture is capable of, demonstrating my own ability to 'do' Critical Theory, and to forward a cultural critique reflecting moral, ethical and spiritual criteria of judgment. The partial absence of a completely unified resolution between these two chapters resonates with an apprehension of the Critical Theory of the Frankfurt School as breaking with the intellectual tradition of foundationalism that emphasizes unity. As such what is presented is a critical alternative to the dominance of the intellectual tradition running from Descartes through positivism. I contend that the problem of intellectual life in relation to mass culture resists harmonious integration into a singular conceptual totality, because I maintain hope that the individual intellect can retain a degree of integrity and efficacy in spite of a monolithic cultural apparatus bent on deluding us at the junciture where culture comes to function as social control.
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Thesis advisor: Zaslove, Jerald
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