Congratulations to PhD student Christine Kelly on her acceptance to the 2014 summer session of the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University. For six weeks, Christine will be attending seminars covering a wide variety of interdisciplinary, critical, and theoretical topics, including ethics and democracy, urban ecology, post-capitalism, black popular culture, and anthropological, legal, and social theories regarding gift-giving and similar forms of social exchange.
Christine described her research for us:
Presently I am examining the “new folk revival” of the early to mid-twentieth century, a left-wing cultural and political movement that emerged from the popular front of the 1930s. I am exploring how folk musician-activists appropriated an eclectic collection of American rural and traditional songs to push forward a contemporary progressive platform that included racial integration and equality, a depression era-based recognition of the plight of the poor, and opposition to the arms race and the advent of the Cold War. Whereas the folk song movement played an active role in rethinking many American cultural norms, its key players tended to reproduce notions of gender inequality that became current during the popular front and out of the radical end of the labor movement and the New Deal, including a sentimental preference for women as homemakers, caretakers, and, for young female folk artists, an image as earthy and pure, untouched by the corrupting forces of capitalism, wage work, and modernity. A racial as well as gendered image, popular front discourse forged a different role for black female performers, whose blackness allowed them to more assertively challenge the social status quo while compromising their claims to traditional (white) femininity. My research, which genders the new folk revival, draws extensively from theoretical approaches, including feminist theory, critical race studies, discursive analysis, and theories on the social production of time and space.
She writes that she applied to the Cornell school of Criticism and Theory because it will:
enrich the theoretical approaches I currently use in my reading of source evidence while adding new concepts to them. During the program I will have an opportunity through seminar discussions to consider the relationship of mass media to black cultural expressiveness, cultural and aesthetic imaginings of urban life, and the moral and ethical dimensions of twentieth century political and economic systems. Each of these topics and the sociocultural approaches they adopt relate to my work on modern folk life as operating within and in response to the currents they address, including mass culture’s role in the making of individual subjectivities, the social and discursive ramifications of the rise and decline of industrial cities, and the idea of the American left as a morally-charged response to reigning systems of economics and governance.