Gilligan Unbound: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization

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In Gilligan Unbound, a distinguished Shakespeare scholar and literary critic proves once and for all that popular culture can be every bit as complex, meaningful, and provocative as the most celebrated works of literature-and a lot more fun. Paul Cantor analyzes and interprets a wide variety of classic television programs with the same seriousness, care, and creativity as he would Hamlet or Macbeth to reveal how dramatically America's image of itself has evolved from the 1960s to the present. Cantor demonstrates how, during the 1960s, Gilligan's Island and Star Trek reflected America's faith in liberal democracy and our willingness to project it universally. Gilligan's Island, Cantor argues, is based on the premise that a representative group of Americans could literally be dumped in the middle of nowhere and still prevail under the worst of circumstances. Star Trek took American optimism even further by trying to make the entire galaxy safe for democracy. Despite the famous Prime Directive, Captain Kirk and his crew remade planet after planet in the image of an idealized 1960s America. With the end of the Cold War and the onset of unprecedented globalizing forces, faith in the American way of life has wavered. Contrary to the claims of those unacquainted with the cartoon, Cantor shows why The Simpsons is actually a powerful defense of the nuclear family and local communities, which has grown out of our growing disillusionment with national politics. In The X-Files we witness the treacherous workings of a government conspiracy, conveying the geopolitical anxiety that has emerged with the collapse of the clear-cut ideological polarities of the Cold War. By observing such trends in American popular culture, Cantor concludes that what had originally appeared to be the ultimate triumph of liberal democracy may in fact signal the beginning of a new phase of history, in which traditional forms of political organization have become obsolete and are being replaced by new global networks. Gilligan Unbou

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GILLIGAN UNBOUND: Pop Culture in the Age of Globalization

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Cantor (English/Univ. of Virginia) turns a semi-serious series of lectures on contemporary television into a more comprehensive volume. By his own account, Cantor's descent into the deconstruction of ... Read full review

Gilligan unbound: pop culture in the age of globalization

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Popular television shows are commonly a reflection of national principles. Shakespeare scholar Cantor (English, Univ. of Virginia) here analyzes four of the most famous prime-time series in the ... Read full review

Selected pages


The Courage of the Fearless Crew Gilligans Island and the Americanization of the Globe
Shakespeare in the Original Klingon Star Trek and the End of History
Simpson Agonistes Atomistic Politics the Nuclear Family and the Globalization of Springfield
Mainstreaming Paranoia The XFiles and the Delegitimation of the NationState
Theres No Place Like Home
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About the author (2001)

Paul A. Cantor has taught at Harvard University and currently is professor of English at the University of Virginia. He served on the National Council on the Humanities from 1992 to 1999. He is the author of books and numerous essays on Shakespeare, Romanticism, literary theory, comparative literature, and many other subjects.

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