American Mythologies examines eleven myths that form part of the storehouse of present-day American mythologies, elucidating the nature of contemporary myths by investigating their ideological sub-terrain. Grounded in a semiological approach, which explores the displacement of information and the transformation of signs that characterise mythic communication, this book sheds light on the socio-economic, gendered, national and racial interests that lie behind myth-making. Presenting rich case studies from popular culture and public discourse, it demonstrates the manner in which these myths, and American mythology in general, promote the core values of everyday life under capitalism: rugged individualism, the unfettered right to accumulate wealth, the superior moral character of free-enterprise democracy, and its abundant opportunities for every citizen. By the same token, that same mythology negates the corruption endemic to the capitalist social order, an order that also promotes inescapable class, racial, and gender inequalities which confine the majority of Americans to a life of constant economic struggle. A fresh critique of the foundations of American culture, American Mythologies will appeal to those with interests in sociology, social and cultural theory, and cultural and media studies.
Manuel PeÃ±a has taught at the University of Texas and Fresno State University as well as at UC Berkeley, where he was also a research fellow. He was a Presidential Scholar at the University of Michigan and a visiting scholar at the University of Houston. He is the author of The Texas-Mexican Conjunto, MÃºsica Tejana, The Mexican American Orquesta, and Where the Ox Does Not Plow.
'Manuel Pena's marvelous revisitation of Roland Barthes's study of the mythological structure of popular culture and modern consumerist society not only updates the Barthesian purview, but in many ways deepens it and elaborates it to encompass the shifting cultural platform from the real to the simulative. Pena's decoding of some of the more salient problematic forms of modern culture is absolutely brilliant, offering insights that penetrate right to the heart of the matter. This book should be read by everyone, academics and general public alike. It is bound to become the key text in this post-Barthesian era.' Marcel Danesi, University of Toronto, Canada