Cover image for Artists in the audience : cults, camp, and American film criticism
Artists in the audience : cults, camp, and American film criticism
Taylor, Greg, 1963-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
x, 198 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Format :


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PN1995 .T339 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Gone with the Wind an inspiration for the American avant-garde? Mickey Mouse a crucial source for the development of cutting-edge intellectual and aesthetic ideas? As Greg Taylor shows in this witty and provocative book, the idea is not so far-fetched. One of the first-ever studies of American film criticism, Artists in the Audience shows that film critics, beginning in the 1940s, turned to the movies as raw material to be molded into a more radical modernism than that offered by any other contemporary artists or thinkers. In doing so, they offered readers a vanguard alternative that reshaped postwar American culture: nonaesthetic mass culture reconceived and refashioned into rich, personally relevant art by the attuned, creative spectator.

Author Notes

Greg Taylor is assistant professor in the Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film at Purchase College, State University of New York.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Taylor (Conservatory of Theatre Arts and Film, SUNY at Purchase) uses the careers of pioneering cult critic Manny Farber and camp critic Parker Tyler as the basis for an examination and brief history of vanguard film criticism. This revolutionary criticism made the artistic value of a piece or the intentions of the artist unimportantÄwhat mattered was the critic's uniquely personal impressions of the work and his creation or interpretation of relevant meaning from it. Taken from the art world, the approach was a reaction to consumer-friendly, "middlebrow" postwar modernism, and the vibrant American popular movie was the perfect material. These writers paved the way for the better-known critics who followed them, before vanguard criticism retreated into academia. Recommended for academic collections.ÄMarianne Cawley, Charleston Cty. Lib., SC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

What Taylor (SUNY, Purchase) calls "vanguard criticism" can be traced to the second half of the 19th century, to the uneasy tension between Oscar Wilde's model of "critic as artist" and Matthew Arnold's "critic as disinterested observer." Since WW II, self-styled avant-garde critics like Otis Ferguson, Manny Farber, Parker Tyler, and Jonas Mekas have placed US commercial films in the forefront of modernism--first, by dismissing them as autonomous works in their own right (acknowledging that their "centrifugal collective" militates against the possibility of formal unity and integrity); second, by establishing their aesthetic values as variable, contextual, and spectator centered. By pursuing cultist and camp agendas, critics have in effect created their own high culture outside the bounds of "middlebrow art." Ironically, as that very middlebrow culture has absorbed their ideas, vanguard critics have had to pursue ever more esoteric agendas in order to continue their resistant seizing of popular culture. This densely textured argument demands careful and patient reading, but Taylor's contribution to the study of spectatorship and contemporary critical practices more than justifies the effort. Especially recommended for graduate students and faculty. J. C. Tibbetts; University of Kansas

Table of Contents

Prefacep. ix
Chapter 1 The Spectator as Critic as Artistp. 3
Chapter 2 Movies to the Rescue: American Modernism and the Middlebrow Challengep. 19
Chapter 3 Life on the Edge: Manny Farber and Cult Criticismp. 30
Chapter 4 Hallucinating Hollywood: Parker Tyler and Camp Spectatorshipp. 49
Chapter 5 From Termites to Auteurs: Cultism Goes Mainstreamp. 73
Chapter 6 Heavy Culture and Underground Campp. 98
Chapter 7 Retreat into Theoryp. 122
Conclusion: Love, Death, and the Limits of Artistic Criticismp. 150
Notesp. 159
Referencesp. 179
Indexp. 193