Chautauquas & Nascar
May 22, 2005 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Chautauquas, and (as early as the 1830's) Lyceums, were perhaps America's first experiments in a truly Mass Culture. Everyone from this guy to this guy took the stage.
These days? Budweiser and Home Depot continue this fine American tradition.
Hey, at least its not a Medicine Show.
posted by gilgamix (9 comments total)
I've been to the Chautauqua Institute (on Chautauqua Lake) many times and it's quite a beautiful place. These days its more of a gated community then anything, very religion-centric, with lots of music and some talks. Locally, talks and perfomances from the Institute are broadcast on the public radio station. Looking at their 2005 Lineup you can see some interesting topics.
posted by jeresig at 6:38 PM on May 22, 2005

Don't say no to the incredible medicine show.

A middlebrow star like Oprah could start a Lyceum movement with the help of some higher-brow sponsorships. I'd be open to sharing such a cultural phenomenon with housewives if it meant the nation got to hear more from Garrison Keillor, David Sedaris, and other smart popular writers.

Incidentally, O'Reilly conventions seem closer to this than other conventions (SXSW, trek cons, E3) because they're open to a mixed public of A-listers and amateurs (unlike official academic conventions), they're more lecture-centered than trade-show-centered (unlike E3), and they involve a variety of interests (unlike Trekkie cons). But I've never been to any, so I'm just speculating.
posted by NickDouglas at 7:06 PM on May 22, 2005

Don't forget Northern Wisconsin's Finest: The Big Top Chatauqua!
posted by rachelpapers at 7:25 PM on May 22, 2005

Hmm, no mention of Pirsig?

NickDouglas, regarding David Sedaris, on the recommendation of someone (attractive, and of the appropriate gender, so I was predisposed to liking it) I just read Barrel Fever and was quite honestly unimpressed. There were occasional glimmers of irony, and I liked his personal true story of Santaland as well as the Malison story, but for the most part his style didn't seem to have neither the "empathy" nor the "wit" that the cover promised. Rather he seemed to revel in a sort of perpetual dredging of the bottom of society, stopping now and then to mention large cocks in the edgy and provocative manner of your average angst-ridden and overearnest poetry slam. But the previous recommendation from this individual (Pattern Recognition by Gibson) is now one of my favorite books so maybe I set my expectations a bit high.

Garrison Keillor is very hit-or-miss. Plus, it seems his cultural purity has been called into question of late.
posted by vsync at 10:22 PM on May 22, 2005

Here is Missouri Chautauqua continues, though with historical impersonators rather than modern thinkers. Still a lot of fun for history geeks like myself. I believe other states have similar programs.
posted by LarryC at 11:02 PM on May 22, 2005

In Boulder, Colorado they have one of the orginal Chautauquas. They have great music there every summer, and it's located in quite a beautiful spot. Richard Thompson plays pretty much every year there (I'll be seeing him in June), and last year David Byrne put on one of the better shows I've seen. This year the big name is Jewel (if you're into that kind of thing), but also The Neville Brothers and Los Lobos are playing.
posted by Eekacat at 6:39 AM on May 23, 2005

VSync: As for Sedaris, I'm sorry you don't like him. I've only read a couple of his Esquire columns and Me Talk Pretty One Day, so I don't know whether I'd like Barrel Fever. But if you call Keillor hit-or-miss, I doubt our tastes overlap much. He's part of my personal canon.

In any case, a voice-over on the Honda gear commercial is nothing. Hemingway is now a furniture line.
posted by NickDouglas at 7:36 AM on May 23, 2005

I'm not sure I buy the (presumably tongue-in-cheek) Nascar analogy. There're plenty of things we've got today trying to do the Chautauqua thing, but stock-car races aren't one of them. The Last American Hero is Junior Johnson. Yes!
posted by Zurishaddai at 7:57 AM on May 23, 2005

UC Santa Cruz has one going on right now.
posted by annaramma at 1:22 PM on May 23, 2005

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