Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Kermit Culture" Explores the Depths of the Muppets

McFarland & Company, a publisher of scholarly and academic books, is planning to release an exciting new anthology of academic essays that explore various perspectives on Jim Henson's Muppets. Entitled Kermit Culture: Critical Perspectives on Jim Henson's Muppets, the book will feature a unique collection of original essays on the Muppets.

Collected, edited, and contributed to by Jennifer C. Garlen and Anissa M. Graham, the anthology includes the work of a variety of contributors from various academic disciplines - including literature, philosophy, culture studies, puppetry arts, and education. As a result, Jennifer Garlen says, "there should be something for everyone in the collection."

Intended for both scholarly and general audiences, the essays included in the book represent a diverse range of topics – such as Statler and Waldorf's role as a critical chorus, the role of Muppets as actors, the Muppet films' embodiment of the American journey, Miss Piggy and gender stereotypes, the morality of Kermit the Frog, and even what the Muppets tell us about ourselves. This unique anthology of essays will provide distinct perspectives on how the Muppets became enduring characters, renowned cultural icons, and how they play into outlook on life and the world around us.

The 323-page book is slated for a softcover release in spring/summer 2009; you can already pre-order a copy for the McFarland website. I will be sure to keep you updated with more details regarding the release of Kermit Culture as more details become confirmed and available.

Jennifer Garlen has told me that, "if the anthology sells well enough, [they] already have plans and potential contributors for a second book that looks at the expanded Henson universe." So the success of Kermit Culture could lead towards an academic exploration of Fraggles, Grouches, Gelflings, Farscape aliens, and many other classic Henson creatures and characters that couldn't fit into this book (which deals exclusively on the Muppet Show family of characters).

Below you can read a copy of the official publisher’s description for Kermit Culture along with a complete listing of the essays and authors included in this remarkable new anthology.

Publisher's summary:
By the end of its five-year run on television, The Muppet Show had transformed its motley cast of characters from mere fistfuls of felt to true multi-media celebrities. Sophisticated and highly individuated, each of the Muppets nonetheless embodied a conventional character type from classic television comedy. Kermit, the manager of the show, functioned as straight man to the majority of the show’s jokes. Miss Piggy, the resident diva, evolved from first season chorus girl to full-fledged megastar. The Costello to Kermit’s Abbot, Fozzie peddled his vaudevillian shtick to a tough audience, but his genuine sweetness made him lovable even when his jokes were terrible. Intended for both scholarly and general audiences, these essays represent the work and ideas of a global community of scholars and Muppet enthusiasts, providing a unique perspective on just how Kermit and the rest of the frogs, dogs, bears, and chickens became cultural icons with influences reaching far beyond the world of 1970s television comedy.

Kermit Culture: Critical Perspectives on Jim Henson's Muppets
Part I: Audience Participation
• "Taking Silliness Seriously: The Muppet Show and the Anglo-American Nonsense Tradition" by Michelle Ann Abate
• "The Muppet Show Re-Forms the Fringe" by Anissa M. Graham
• "What The Muppets Can Tell Us About Our Furry Selves" by Gideon Haberkorn
• "How to Become a Muppet, or, The Great Muppet Paper" by Ben Underwood
• "Stuffed Tuxedoes: Statler and Waldorf as Critical Chorus" by Lynne Schneider

Part II: Adaptation and Performance
• "From Muppetry to Puppetry" by Jennifer Stoessner
• "The Muppets in Shakespeare" by Hugh Davis
• "Enter Kermit as Bob Cratchit: Muppets as Actors" by Ginger Stelle
• "The Muppet Wizard of Oz and the Re-Imagination of the American Myth" by Alissa Burger
• "While and at the Same Time: Gonzo the Great and the Conflation of High and Low Culture" by Jennifer C. Garlen

Part III: Theories and Strategies
• "The American Journey Narrative in The Muppet Movies" by Tara K. Parmiter
• "It's Time to Get Together for Some Sex and Violence on the Muppet Show?" by Kathleen Kennedy
• "'British to a Fang, British to a Whisker': Reconsidering The Muppet Show’s National Identity" by Rayna Denison
• "The Muppet Show as Educational Critique" by Julie G. Maudlin
• "The Ethos of Kermit the Frog" by Michele Lockhart
• "Miss Piggy and the Subversion of Gender Stereotypes" by Maryanne Fisher and Anthony Cox
• "Muppets and Money" by Andrew Leal

2 comments:

Chris said...

Wow. Looks like you CAN have a highly intellectual conversation about the Muppets.

I can see it now: A small credit elective based on these scholarly essays being available at your local University of Phoenix or DeVry! Sign me UP! :)

Jess said...

Wow! This book looks amazing! I might have to buy this.