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Cool: The Signs and Meanings of Adolescence

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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Danesi studies the culture, its symbols, myths, and problems of teenage culture as both a serious academic and a parent needing to understand.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7347-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. 1 A History of Teenagerhood
    (pp. 3-36)

    Although it might seem that teenagers have been around since time immemorial, it turns out that they are, as Doherty (1988: 46) observes, the direct offspring of an incessantly increasing consumerism and a growing dependence upon the media for information and recreation that emerged during the 1950s, changing the course of Western society permanently. It is true, of course, that even the earliest civilizations differentiated betweenyoungandoldas biologically and socially significant categories. But the idea of making the pubescent period a specific one for psychologists to study was forged only in 1904, when Stanley G. Hall proposed...

  5. 2 The Emergence of Coolness
    (pp. 37-68)

    The symbolic and behavioural feature that distinguishes teenagerhood iscoolness. The expressioncoolcomes out of the jazz club scene of the 1930s (Thorne 1990: 107). When the air in the smoke-filled nightclubs of that era became unbreathable, windows and doors were opened to allow some ′cool air′ in from the outside to help clear away the suffocating air. By analogy, the slow and smooth jazz style that was typical of that late-night scene came to be called ′cool.′Coolwas subsequently extended to describe any physically attractive, male jazz musician or aficionado who patronized such clubs. Recently, the makers...

  6. 3 An Anatomy of Coolness
    (pp. 69-94)

    The underlying biological basis for displays of coolness is sexuality. As archaeological evidence now seems to suggest, sexually induced social behaviours have probably always been characteristic of the human species. According to Helen Fisher (1992: 272-3), Cro-Magnon adolescents apparently ′spent hours decorating themselves - as adolescents do in many cultures - plaiting their hair, donning garlands of flowers in order to smell sweet, wearing bracelets and pendants, and decorating their tunics and leggings with fur, feathers, beads, and red and yellow ocher. Then they strutted, preened, and showed off for one another around the fire′s glow.′

    So, the contemporary manifestations...

  7. 4 Pubilect: The Language of Teenagerhood
    (pp. 95-124)

    On 15 March 1987, theWashington Postpublished an article that, in a rather eloquent fashion, claimed that slang reflected the teenager′s overall temperament. The following passage from the article is cited here because it makes the important point that teenage language reflects subcultural solidarity and aids in the formation of a mindset:

    There was a time when we spoke in code: the language of adolescence. Adults still cling tenaciously to the vocabulary that they grew up on, those words that were once essential to both communicating and establishing a mindset. But, in the halls of schools across the land,...

  8. 5 The Future of Teenagerhood
    (pp. 125-152)

    The motivation behind the observations and commentaries offered so far has been, as I indicated in the preface, to provide a semiotic analysis of what was implicit in the statement ′It′scoolto becool!′ uttered to me by a thirteen-year-old schoolmate of my daughter over a decade ago.Being coolfor the denizens of the contemporary social territory that I have calledteenagerhoodentails knowing how to dress for a peer audience, how to carve out an appropriate body image for that same audience, what kind of rock music is fashionable, which peers to hang out with, how to...

  9. References
    (pp. 153-164)
  10. Index
    (pp. 165-168)