The very presence of media studies in the academy was not a foregone conclusion; it is an effect of changing conceptions of taste over time. Many kinds of media— especially commercial media consumed by broad audiences—were usually beneath consideration, except perhaps as causes of individual or social problems, until the last decades of the twentieth century. Shifting understandings of taste have led to the existence of media studies, and to particular approaches, including taking cultural distinction itself as an object of study.

Several influential conceptions of taste have shaped the field. In Critique of Judgement (1790/2007), Immanuel Kant equated taste with the judgment of beauty, and identified beauty as a universally acknowledged quality found in nature and in fine art. In the nineteenth century, literary critic Matthew Arnold (1869/2006, viii) applied similar qualifications to a definition of culture as “the best that has been thought and said,” a line of …

This essay may be found on page 189 of the printed volume.

Works Cited
Permanent Link to this Essay