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Abstract

Memphis Elvis is cool; Vegas Elvis is cheesy. How come? To call something cheesy is, ostensibly, to disparage it, and yet cheesy acts are some of the most popular in popular culture today. How is this possible? The concepts of cheese, cheesy, and cheesiness play an important and increasingly ubiquitous role in popular culture today. I offer an analysis of these concepts, distinguishing them from nearby concepts like kitchy and campy. Along the way I draw attention to the important roles of cultural/historical context, background knowledge, and especially artist’s intentions as they are relevant to aesthetic assessments involving cheese and related concepts. I go on to contend that these concepts, properly understood, serve as helpful test cases concerning some important issues in contemporary aesthetics, such as the paradox of negative art and the contentious debate between intentionalists and anti-intentionalists.

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Esthetics Commons

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