Introduction Imagining the popular
Highbrow, lowbrow, middlebrow
in Imagining the popular in contemporary French culture
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This chapter introduces the main themes of this book, exploring how the French in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have come to imagine the popular in particular and distinctive ways: how popular-cultural texts or forms have, variously, been produced and received, theorised and judged. It suggests that the notion of popular culture is essentially ideological and ethical in that it is bound up with cultural democracy. The analytical methods used in the book combine elements of sociology, sociolinguistics, Cultural and Media Studies, literary and film studies, and public-policy studies. The chapter concludes that analysis of any contemporary culture and of its relationships with the complex realities of national identities in the twenty-first century is seriously incomplete and hence distorted without the dimension of the popular.

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