What are you doing here?

Why did you choose to attend a Liberal Arts College such as Willamette?



What does the term "liberal" even signify?









Liberal = liberalis = of freedom, befitting the free, equiv. to liber free + -alis -al

Open-minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.

Favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression


So, what does liberal arts education offer you?









Does knowledge set you free? Free from what?

What are you hoping to get while you are here?


Definitions of "Liberal Arts education:

--the academic course of instruction at a college intended to provide general knowledge and comprising the arts, humanities, natural sciences, and social sciences, as opposed to professional or technical subjects.

--the subjects of an academic college course, including literature, philosophy, languages, history, and, usually, survey courses of the sciences, as distinguished from professional or technical subjects: sometimes referred to as arts, as in Bachelor of Arts



What are the three main components of a liberal education at Willamette University?



1. Gen Ed: Coll Colloquium, 3 Writing Centered courses, 2 Quantitative and Analytical Reasing courses; a Language other than English




2. Breadth Requirements in 6 areas...the MOIs = Modes of Inquiry

Understanding the Natural World

Understanding Society

Thinking Historically

Creating in the Arts

Interpreting Texts

Analyzing Reasons, Arguments and Values





3. Your major program (no more than 10 credits in a single department)




Should everything we study here--should knowledge--always be "use-ef-ful" as Elia Kazan's father used to say? Must knowledge always serve a purpose? Lead to a marketable skill?

Or can we study and learn stuff just for the sake of knowing, to learn because learning is a joy unto itself?


Will YOU allow yourself that freedom? The freedom to explore and learn even if it is not going to directly help you build a successful career?



So, then....

Does studying the songs and writings of an iconic figure in popular culture like Bob Dylan belong in a liberal arts college setting?


Why or why not?


Or, another way of thinking about it, perhaps.....


1. Is there any value in studying popular culture in an academic setting?













Some sub-questions:

a. what is popular culture? how should we define it?

b. how does it differ from "high" or elite culture?

c. John Lennon once provoked a strong reaction when he said in an interview that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. What do you think he might have meant by that statement?****















Some Definitions:  

1. n. commercial culture based on popular taste. (dictionary.com)


2. contemporary lifestyle and items that are well known and generally accepted, cultural patterns that are widespread within a population; also called pop culture (Webster's New Millennium(TM) Dictionary of English)


3. popular culture is also suggested to be the widespread cultural elements in any given society that are perpetuated through that society's vernacular language or lingua franca....It can include any number of practices, including those pertaining to cooking, clothing, consumption, mass media and the many facets of entertainment such as sports and literature.

[Some definitions equate] pop culture with Mass Culture. This is seen as a commercial culture, mass produced for mass consumption. From a U.K. (and European) point of view, this may be equated to American culture. (Wikipedia)


4. One author [John Storey, "Cultural Theory and Popular Culture"] "...sees popular culture as a site of struggle between the 'resistance' of subordinate groups in society and the forces of 'incorporation' operating in the interests of dominant groups in society." A postmodernism approach to popular culture would "no longer recognise the distinction between high and popular culture.' (Wikipedia)

5. Storey emphasises that popular culture emerges from the urbanisation of the industrial revolution, which identifies the term with the usual definitions of 'mass culture'. Studies of Shakespeare (by Weimann, Barber or Bristol, for example) locate much of the characteristic vitality of his drama in its participation in Renaissance popular culture...(Wikipedia)





2. About what kinds of things do you think popular culture can inform us? Do you think a college education should address these kinds of things?








3. Can it help us better understand our own lives? If so, how?





4. Does it help us understand the society or the times in which we live?






One view:

The serious, scholarly study of mass or popular culture is a fairly recent phenomenon, although sociologists have long found the materials with which Americans amuse themselves fascinating for what they reflect about the people and the world around them. Popular culture therefore serves as a mirror wherein society can better see itself.

(from: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~YP/yppop.html#Music)



5. Can popular culture be subversive, do you think?











6. So, the end of the day, what can we learn from the study of the life and times of Bob Dylan and his contribution to the field of music?






What John Lennon actually said [as the reporter transcribed it] was:


'Christianity will go,' he said. 'It will vanish and shrink. I needn't argue about that; I'm right and I will be proved right. We're more popular than Jesus now; I don't know which will go first-rock 'n' roll or Christianity. Jesus was all right but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It's them twisting it that ruins it for me.' He is reading extensively about religion.