We get the grant, we study the problem, we propose solutions. If they listen, they listen. If they don't, it still makes for great research. What we publish on this is gonna get a lot of attention.
A Journey to the End of Taste is not only thoughtful and well-informed, it is also compelling in every sense of the word. I don't know where I first heard about Wilson's book -- probably via Bookforum -- but it's gotten plenty of press, including a mention by James Franco at the Oscars and an interview of Wilson by Stephen Colbert.
The concept of the book is seductive: I kept away from the book for a little while because I thought it couldn't possibly live up to its premise, and that in all likelihood it was more stunt than analysis. Nonetheless, the premise kept attracting me, because I am fascinated by the concept of taste and I, too, find Dion's music to be the sonic equivalent of a Thomas Kinkade painting.
What makes Wilson's approach so effective and insightful is that it avoids the fanboy defensiveness marring everything from internet discussions to scholarly studies such as Peter Swirski's From Lowbrow to Nobrow.
Wilson isn't grinding axes or settling scores; he's more interested in exploration than proclamation, more inclined toward maps than manifestos. The result is one of the few books I know that is as likely to expand its readers' view of the world as it is to provide the choir with an appealing sermon.
Wilson also provides a good, basic overview of histories and traditions of aesthetic philosophy, showing that even the most eminent thinkers and critics tend to do little more than construct elaborate sleight-of-hand routines.
Because his goal is not to debunk so much as it is to explore, Wilson is able to use the best of what he encounters -- most fruitfully in his clear-eyed application of ideas from Pierre Bourdieu's Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.
Taste is not, for Wilson, merely an expression of social influences and aspirations, but it is partly so, and those parts are often what is most invisible to us when we discuss our aesthetic judgments. He examines a marketing survey of Dion's fans and discovers some surprises: Widows and grannies aside, what occurs to me is that this midlevel cultural-capital audience is not as far from the average white pop critic as we might have expected.
We usually make middling incomes or worse, and while most have university degrees, our expertise is usually more self-taught than PhD-certified, a pattern Bourdieu believed would produce an anxious, fact-hoarding intellectual style in contrast with the relaxed mastery of a fully legitimated cultural elite.
If you've met any pop critics, you'll see his point.
Perhaps our scathing tongues are enacting what Freud called the narcissism of small differences, in defense of what Bourdieu might call a very fragile distinction. Small differences, though, are essential to anyone's taste "To have taste at all," Wilson says, "is to exclude".
This is especially true now, in an age of media proliferation, where tastes tend to be at least superficially omnivorous, though to like or even appreciate everything is to like and appreciate nothing, making the subtle distinctions within any omnivorous aesthetic especially powerful.
Even omnivorous taste, though, tends to correlate to class and education levels: Wilson cites studies showing that when class includes cultural capital and education rather than just economic powerthe people with the broadest tastes tend to be higher class than people with narrower tastes -- and the few sorts of music that higher class people are willing to categorically dismiss as not to their taste are the sorts of music lower class people tend to cite as their favorites in this included rap, heavy metal, country, and gospel; there might be some differences in the catagories today, but the effect would likely be similar.
It begins with a consideration of his own taste -- not merely the sorts of music he likes, but the sorts of artistic expressions that provoke emotion and pleasure within him, and why this is, admitting, "the truth is that my so-called adult life is mortifyingly similar to that of a teenage girl, or at least the bemused existentialists who stand in for them on TV:creative writing is almost a spiritual activity.
its purpose is not to inform,but to reaeal. creaty is the ability to create,that is to bring into existence or give to something that is original in nature.
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