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Living in the Rock N Roll Mystery: Reading Context, Self, and Others as Clues
by H. L. Goodall, Jr.
Southern Illinois University Press, 1991
Cloth: 978-0-8093-1610-6 | eISBN: 978-0-8093-8070-1
Library of Congress Classification P91.G65 1991
Dewey Decimal Classification 306.484


Mystery, rather than “problem,” provides the con­text that the cultural ethnographer best uses to ap­proach the experience of both the living and the writ­ing of culture. In this work, H. L. Goodall, Jr., continues his discussion of the cultural ethnographer as detective through an investigation of what he calls the “rock n roll mystery.”

Using Bakhtin’s notion of “Carnival,” Goodall posi­tions rock n roll as an important aspect of the American cultural experience using its lyrics and rhythm as a force of resistance to the dominant bureaucratic order. He argues that interpretive eth­nography, where sentences use rhythms and emo­tions along with words to construct a work, parallels rock n roll in its creation of multiple voices strug­gling for creative and interpretive presence and space in the text. As there is no privileged text in the social life of rock n roll, there is no privileged voice in the writing of interpretive ethnography. It is, instead, a reading and writing method within the field of communication and the field of cultural studies that challenges the “existing wisdom.”

Goodall invites the reader to join him in the role of the detective who confronts, enters, and then participates in the mysteries of living. Through the use of his interpretive method, Goodall is able to move under the skin of experience to disclose the relationship among self, other(s), and context, an understanding only achieved by “going beneath the often cosmetic surfaces of cultural traffic to where symbols mingle with the driven stuff of life.” Be­cause the “stuff of life” is laid out on the pages of this book, Goodall’s text is as compelling as a good novel and in some ways more intimate.

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