Academia Against Popular Culture

Popular Culture Against Academia


  • Esther Clinton Bowling Green State University



theory, anti-elitism, popular culture studies, popular music studies, ethnomusicology


How should popular music scholars (or students of other popular art forms) embrace antielitism while avoiding the scepticism of theory it so often accompanies? I do not argue that theory is beyond reproach or that all theories offer useful answers to all questions. Scholarship should often include refining theories to improve their utility, requiring critical engagement with theory. Anti-elitism too often becomes at worst a dismissal of theory, at best a disregard for it. I discuss popular music scholarship and its value, with particular attention to “train-spotting” and criticism of comic books. If scholars want to understand human experiences (as I trust we do), theory can help us understand why humans do what we do and how our art reflects and affects those experiences.

Author Biography

  • Esther Clinton, Bowling Green State University

    Esther Clinton is Visiting Assistant Professor of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University. She received her PhD in Folklore from Indiana University and has written on a range of topics, including J.R.R. Tolkien, heavy metal, gothic literature, lung cancer, proverbs and phenomenology.


Browne, Ray B. 1989. Against Academia: The History of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association and the Popular Culture Movement, 1967–1988. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press.

Frith, Simon. 1996. Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Kaplan, Ilana. 2019. “Bill Maher Reignites Feud with Stan Lee Fans on ‘Real Time’”. Rolling Stone, 26 January. (accessed 4 June 2019).

Maher, Bill. 2018. “Adulting”. Real Time with Bill Maher Blog, 17 November. (accessed 3 June 2019).





Special Section

How to Cite

Clinton, E. (2019). Academia Against Popular Culture: Popular Culture Against Academia. Journal of World Popular Music, 6(2), 228-231.