Penn State

Allen R. Larson - associate professor of communications, Penn State New Kensington

Book Title: Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society

Author: Richard Dyer

Book Description:

Richard Dyer's profound influence upon the development of cultural studies remains widely undervalued most of the time, so I have chosen to pay tribute to this exceptional writer, thinker, and scholar with this book selection (the fact that Pattee's only copy of this edition was listed as "missing" in the CAT today helped bring my long deliberation to a close as well, since I wanted to choose something that was not currently part of the collection—not an easy task!).

Although Dyer's work on Hollywood stardom represents only one strain of his trailblazing contributions to the field, this book had an especially crucial impact upon the development of my own scholarly work. Indeed, I could not have written my own book if Dyer had not written this one. Beyond that more direct influence, however, is that matter of the general spirit in which all of Dyer's work engages the practice of critical cultural analysis. Perhaps one of the reasons that his work often remains undervalued is the quality of the writing itself—which, in its execution of complex theoretical concepts, nevertheless privileges clarity and accessibility over belabored, disciplinary self-referentiality. In his work, the question of why should bother to "think" about popular culture at all—why we should write, teach, communicate about it—finds some of its compelling answers. Dyer provides a model to which I continue to aspire as a writer and educator.

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