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Sunday, April 23 • 9:00am - 11:00am
Well-Meaning Sentiments

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Critique of well-meaning but insipid political music has recurred from "Ballad for Americans" to "We are the World," though each of these examples has had its defenders, too: Michael Denning seeing Popular Front urban coalition, Robert Christgau black middle-of-the-road voices. Another way to frame this is as the relationship between the sentimental and the vernacular: between Uncle Tom's Cabin or Show Boat (or Lauren Berlant) and minstrelsy or blues (or Eric Lott), between Kiss singing "Detroit Rock City" and Kiss singing "Beth," between Chuck Berry hitting with "Johnny B. Goode" but wishing he could hit with a Nat Cole ballad. Often, sentimentality is framed culturally as feminine, middle class, white, insincere, or overly sincere, where the vernacular is framed as masculine, working class, black, and amoral. How does this play out when sentimentality enters political music, from "God Bless America" to "This Land Is Your Land," from Macklemore to Hamilton?

Gus Stadler, “Woody Guthrie, Sentimentalism, and the Idea of Cultural Politics”
Karen Tongson, “The Indigo Girls and the Politics of Lesbian Sentimentality”
Pamela Fox, “Born to (Re)Write: Rethinking the Gendered and Classed Political Imaginary of Rock Music Memoir in Born to Run”
Eric Weisbard, “Anthems and Angularity: Sentimental/Vernacular Divides In Music Writing”

avatar for Emily Gale

Emily Gale

TwitterEmily Gale is a Lecturer in popular music at UC Merced. Her book project, Sentimental Songs for Sentimental People, explores intersections between American popular song and sentimentalism, specifically in 19th century sentimental ballads; the National Barn Dance radio show; the 19... Read More →

avatar for Pamela Fox

Pamela Fox

Pamela Fox is Professor of English at Georgetown University specializing in working-class lit. and culture as well as feminist and cultural theory. She is the author of Class Fictions: Shame and Resistance in the British Working-Class Novel, 1890-1945; Natural Acts: Gender, Race... Read More →
avatar for Gus Stadler

Gus Stadler

TwitterGus Stadler is Associate Professor of English at Haverford College. He is the author of a book, Troubling Minds: The Cultural Politics of Genius in the U. S. 1840-1890 and numerous articles on American literature and culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. From 2010 to 2013 he co-ed... Read More →
avatar for Karen Tongson

Karen Tongson

TwitterKaren Tongson is Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies at University of Southern California, and the author of Relocations: Queer Suburban Imaginaries (NYU Press). Her work has appeared in numerous venues in print and online. She has a forthcoming book with ForEdge Press... Read More →
avatar for Eric Weisbard

Eric Weisbard

TwitterEric Weisbard is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Alabama, organizer of the Pop Conference, editor of three MoPOP (formerly EMP Museum) anthologies (This Is Pop,Listen Again, and Pop When the World Falls Apart) and the Spin Alternative Record Guide, and author... Read More →

Sunday April 23, 2017 9:00am - 11:00am PDT
JBL Theater MoPOP, 325 5th Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98109