AMS Spring Speaker: Joel Dinerstein on "Hip vs. Cool: Delineating Two Key Concepts in American Popular Culture"
Fri, March 2, 2012 • 3:00 PM - 5:00 PM • BUR 436A
Please join the American Studies Graduate Student Events Committee for our spring lecture by UT American Studies alum Dr. Joel Dinerstein, professor of English and director of American Studies at Tulane University. The title of his talk is "Hip vs. Cool: Delineating Two Key Concepts in American Popular Culture."
Joel Dinerstein is an Associate Professor in the Department of English at Tulane University where he also directs the American Studies program. He is the author of Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African-American Culture Between the World Wars (2003), an award-winning cultural study of the relationship between jazz and industrialization. He is currently working on a cultural history of the concept of cool in American culture, The Origins of Cool: Jazz, Film Noir, and Existentialism in Postwar America (forthcoming, University of Chicago Press). In a related project, Dinerstein is a co-curator of a photography exhibit entitled American Cool at the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution. (Opening: March 2014.) He has also been a consultant on jazz and popular music for Putumayo Records, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the HBO serial drama, Boardwalk Empire. Dinerstein received his Ph.D. in American Studies from UT-Austin.
Abstract for the talk:
The African-American concepts of "hip" and "cool" arose in the late 1930s during the Great Migration and have since permeated global popular culture. These terms are now often conflated but were once distinct. "Hip" was synonymous with awareness, and a "hip cat" was both streetwise and a first responder to new artistic and cultural trends. Hip stood for a vibrant urban energy that has since been commodified into a quality of superficial edginess.In contrast, cool was associated with equipoise and emotional self-control, with a certain stylish stoicism. I will analyze the origins of hip and cool in postwar American culture and then the redirection of these terms first, by the Beat Generation and the counterculture, and second, through their commodification by corporate advertising a generation later. Finally, I will discuss how cool, in particular, has retained its ethnic value within African-American masculinity.