Reading the Beatles

Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism, and the Fab Four

Edited by Kenneth Womack & Todd F. Davis

Subjects: Music
Paperback : 9780791467169, 261 pages, February 2006
Hardcover : 9780791467152, 261 pages, February 2006

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Table of contents


Introduction: “Dear Sir or Madam, Will You Read My Book?”
Kenneth Womack and Todd F. Davis

Part I
“Speaking words of wisdom”: The Beatles’ Poetics

1. “I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together”: Bakhtin and the Beatles
Ian Marshall

2. From “Craft” to “Art”: Formal Structure in the Music of the Beatles
John Covach

3. “Love, love, love”: Representations of Gender and Sexuality in Selected Songs by the Beatles
Sheila Whiteley

4. Painting Their Room in a Colorful Way: The Beatles Exploration of Timbre
Walter Everett

Part II
“A splendid time is guaranteed for all”: Theorizing the Beatles

5. Mythology, Remythology, and Demythology: The Beatles on Film
Kenneth Womack and Todd F. Davis

6. Vacio Luminoso: “Tomorrow Never Knows” and the Coherence of the Impossible
Russell Reising

7. The Spectacle of Alienation: Death, Loss, and the Crowd in Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
William M. Northcutt

8. We All Want to Change the World: Postmodern Politics and the Beatles’ White Album
Jeffrey Roessner

Part III
“We can work it out”: The Beatles and Culture

9. “The rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewelry”: The Beatles and Questions of Mass and High Culture
Paul Gleed

10. A Universal Childhood: Tourism, Pilgrimage, and the Beatles
Kevin McCarron

11. “Baby, You’re a Rich Man”: The Beatles, Ideology, and the Cultural Moment
James M. Decker

12. Spinning the Historical Record: Lennon, McCartney, and Museum Politics
John Kimsey

Afterword: I Want to Hold Your Hand
Jane Tompkins

List of Contributors

Addresses the band’s resounding impact on how we think about gender, popular culture, and the formal and poetic qualities of music.


Despite the enormous amount of writing devoted to the Beatles during the last few decades, the band's abiding intellectual and cultural significance has received scant attention. Using various modes of literary, musicological, and cultural criticism, the essays in Reading the Beatles firmly establish the Beatles as a locus of serious academic and cultural study. Exploring the group's resounding impact on how we think about gender, popular culture, and the formal and poetic qualities of music, the contributors trace not only the literary and musicological qualities of selected Beatles songs but also the development of the Beatles' artistry in their films and the ways in which the band has functioned as a cultural, historical, and economic product. In a poignant afterword, Jane Tompkins offers an autobiographical account of the ways in which the Beatles afforded her with the self-actualizing means to become less alienated from popular culture, gender expectations, and even herself during the early 1960s.

At the Pennsylvania State University at Altoona, Kenneth Womack is Interim Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Todd F. Davis is Associate Professor of English. Together they authored The Critical Response to John Irving and Formalist Criticism and Reader-Response Theory, and edited Mapping the Ethical Turn: A Reader in Ethics, Culture, and Literary Theory. Davis is also the author of Kurt Vonnegut's Crusade; or, How a Postmodern Harlequin Preached a New Kind of Humanism, also published by SUNY Press.