Mass Communications

This is NOT an essay - it is a collection of notes which are the foundation of
an 800 word comparison of two articles regarding the place of humanities in
university studies, and the roles of mass communication. Part 1 (800 words -

30%) You will be given two short readings by the end of Week 3 of the Semester.

Identify the approach or approaches used in each, and with reference to the
features and examples of the identified approaches as presented in Subject
materials, justify your answer. Andrew Riemer's article, "Cannon or

Fodder?" (The Weekend Australian, 16-17 November 1996) can be identified as
having both Idealist and Leavisite approaches within the text. This is indicated
in several passages of the text: "My colleagues in the Department of

English were irresponsible...They were trivialising the discipline...by allowing
undergraduates to sidestep the so-called canonical writers...in favour of
whatever transient phenomenon or writer of small talent happened to be their
latest obsession." "They were reprehensible ... in encouraging their
students to impose simple sub-Marxist, sub-feminist templates on complex and
mysterious works of literature ... Milton's Eve reduced to a mere victim of the
patriarchy." "Alluring though it might be, we cannot recover
intellectual integrity by turning back the clock." "Cannon or

Fodder?" (The Weekend Australian, 16-17 November 1996) When looking at the
approaches as they are presented in the Subject Materials, one is able to
identify them as clearly being both Idealistic and Leavisite. Our Subject Book
indicates that the Idealistic view of culture has been "conceived in the
humanities and in journalism and popular social commentary ... a realm of moral,
spiritual and aesthetic values which exist largely independent and above
society". Further, this view states Culture was isolated from society -
autonomous because it had to be abstracted from one way of life (pre-industrial)
and then transmitted and extended to another (allegedly inferior) way of life to'save' that society. The Leavisite concept of culture is still common and is
firmly bound up in the theory of mass society and mass culture. Mass
communications are seen to hold a crucial and privileged place in mass society,
taking over the role of creating and distributing the values and information
common to a society. Mass culture, unlike high culture, is unable to transcend
its time and place and offer any kind of lasting truth to its audiences and, at
worst, positively damages them. Critics of Leavis have questioned the narrowing
of 'culture' to literature. ...idealist concept of culture, synonymous with'high' culture, it carries with it its implied opposite - the denigrated 'mass'
culture. ...a central assumption of the approach is that there exists a natural
hierarchy of high culture and mass culture. This is how the idealist approach
deals with differences. "Media vs. Humanities" Simon During The

Australian Identified approaches: materialist/Frankfurt School The mainstream
perception ... is that universities produce and teach truth through research ...
while the media produce and communicate quickly consumable information and
opinion. The weird, ill-judged consensus that the culture is "dumbing
down", which the media itself has helped to forge, is an important
expression of this belief assuming as it does that the media breeds stupidity.
...the notion that the media is shallow and deals in opinion while the
universities deal in depth and truth is misguided (though by no means simply
false). The media are in unacknowledged competition with the humanities. ...in
the interest of truth rather than ideology, they have also undercut the western
classics claim on transcendental value to which the mainstream still genuflects.

The humanities' old ethical project has been marginalised first by the
democratisation of cultural and media consumption, second by the
commercialisation of leisure pursuits, and last, by the segmentation of culture
into market niches. Reader The central materialist assumption is that it is the
material conditions of physical, historical and social being or existence which
determine what counts as consciousness. Marx and Engels argued ... that social
problems were political and needed solutions that put social interests ahead of
private interests. "in direct opposition to idealism" The Frankfurt

School's "critical theory", as it is known, consisted of
investigations into sociology, ideology and philosophy in which their aim was a

Marxist analysis of contemporary society.