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Participating Audiences and Imagined Communities : The Cultural Work of Contemporary American(ized) Narratives


This is a book about contemporary American narratives and the audiences they call into being. It brings together eight very diverse case studies covering and investigating a wide range of media, genres, and modes to ask how contemporary ‘texts’ encourage ‘imagined communities’ of readers/viewers that operate as ‘public spheres’ of social and political deliberation, self-fashioning, and debate.
The narratives circulating in contemporary culture tend to perform several functions at once. They entertain, inform, educate, and invite readers/viewers to remake them. And when readers/viewers interpret and appropriate the stories circulating in our culture, they tend to act simultaneously as consumers and as citizens. Storytelling is fundamental to social organization. Communities on all levels are constituted by shared narratives and communal storytelling, as through sharing, exchanging, conarrating, and ritually renarrating stories, they negotiate their identities, worldviews, and values.
The contributions collected in this volume shift perspectives in a number of ways: They question the boundary between the audiences of narratives on the one side and national public spheres on the other; they thus encourage rereading the transnational mobility of American(ized) narratives not simply as a phenomenon of popular culture but as an indicator of emerging transnational public spheres; and they encourage us to look closely at the narrative dynamics with which these texts operate their audiences as public spheres.