High Anxiety

High Anxiety

Catastrophe, Scandal, Age, and Comedy
Patricia Mellencamp
Distribution: World
Publication date: 9/1/1992
Format: paper 0 pages
6.125 x 9.25
ISBN: 978-0-253-20735-7
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“ . . . acute look at the state of contemporary culture . . . A humorous . . . book, it yields rewarding advice for our perception of reality and fiction.” —Back Stage / Shoot

“Mellencamp’s ease of movement between the conceptual and the commonplace is the great strength of this work. . . . High Anxiety is an invaluable contribution to the cultural studies debate . . . ” —Art + Text

Written with wit and flair, High Anxiety is a critique of the temporality of U.S. television, a narrative journey between Freud’s texts on obsession and the cult of anxiety pervading contemporary culture. Operation Desert Storm, I Love Lucy, Anita Hill, Twin Peaks, and Oprah are a few of the subjects which form this “anxious” mosaic of popular culture.

Author Bio

PATRICIA MELLENCAMP is Professor of Art History at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is the author of Indiscretions: Avant-garde Film, Video, and Feminism and editor of Logics of Television and three American Film Institute monographs.

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Table of Contents



Part I: Packaging the Difference: Franchise Culture

“The Search For Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe”
High Anxiety
A Method to the Madness

I. Differentiation
Passionate Consumption
“Betcha Can’t Eat Just One”
Death and the Market

II. Obsession (Not Just a Perfume)
“Rat Man”
Money and Culture

III. Deregulation
Econologic: “The Luster of Capital”
TV and the FCC
The Global Village or the New World Information Order?

IV. Representing Difference(s)
“Egad, It’s Plaid”
Not a Pretty Picture
Critical Differences
Anita Hill

Part II: Beyond the Pleasure Principle of Television: TV Time, History, and Catastrophe
V. Shocking Thoughts
“Jump Behavior”: Rene Thom
“From Libido to Anxiety”: Sigmund Freud

VI. Disastrous Events
Before the Fall, After the Fall: Baby Jessica and Black Monday
Death, Shock, Art: Kennedy, Walter Benjamin, and Eternal Frame
Sublime Visions: The Challenger Explosion
Diaster Studies
Seeing Is Believing: “The Great Quake”
Aerial Views: Operation Desert Storm
The Machine That Killed Bad People
Nuclear Disavowal

Part III: Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Gossip and Scandal
Secret Pleasures
Face-ism: “Women through Time”
Trival Pursuits: Harping at Harper’s

VII. Gossip Theory
Scholars, Tourist, Ecouteurs
Losing It: Roseanne and Oprah
Taking Things Literately: Patricia Spacks
A Cry in the Dark

VIII. Gossip Law

IX. Gossip and the Market
Women and the National Enquirer
Idle Chatter: Syndication and Tabloid Talk
Loose Talk: Oprah, Geraldo, and Phil
Any Woman’s Blues
Shady Relatives: Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker

X. Theorizing Affect
It’s a sin
A Sexual Detour to Twin Peaks
Fall from Grace and Narrative Absolution
Keeping Secrets

Part IV: Calculating Difference: The Body and Age
The Cultured Body
The Lover
Not a Jealous Bone
The Disciplined Body

XI. Obsessive Subjects: Renifleurs
Women’s Bodies

XII. Aging Bodies
The Young and the Restless
The Life and Loves of a She-Devil
Murder, She Wrote

Part V: Regime of Domiculture: Women and Situation Comedy
XIII. Gracie
XIV. Lucy
XV. Jokes and Their Relation to TV
Who’s the Boss?
Murphy Brown

Part VI: Countercultures: Women’s Economies
XVI. Women’s Spaces/Women’s Work
XVII. Family Therapy
Revising the Counterculture
XVIII. The Seach for Signs of Intelligent Life
Epilogue: The Condensed Version