Ph.D. candidate Taylor Price published an article in Poetics, entitled “Posthumous Consecration in Rock’s Legitimating Discourse.” The article advances the idea of posthumous consecration and analyzes lifetime and posthumous rock album reviews. His findings demonstrate that “death plays a critical role in how cultural fields achieve autonomy.” Price reveals that critics emphasize the coherence of a rock artist’s body of work more greatly in posthumous reviews compared to lifetime reviews, showing that coherence is greatly valued within rock’s legitimizing discourse and contributes to an artist’s symbolic value.
Taylor Price is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Sociology, University of Toronto. His main research interests lie in the sociology of cultural production. He is the process of completing his dissertation research on songs and songwriters in the digital age of music.
We have included the citation and abstract below. The full text of the article can be accessed through the Poetics here.
This article advances the concept of posthumous consecration. I first draw on previous literature to demonstrate that posthumous reputations are important components of fields before conceptualizing a “posthumous” variant of cultural consecration and then adopting this concept in thematic and content analyses of rock album reviews. Through my analyses of 336 lifetime and posthumous album reviews, I find two salient discursive processes in the album review sections of rock magazines that follow in the wake of the death of a consecrated figure. First, critics revise the categorical boundaries spanned by rock artists after their deaths. I find striking patterns in how critics draw comparisons between rockers who made their recording debut either before or after 1975 that suggest the categorical membership(s) ascribed by critics to living and dead public figures in a cultural field are dependent on the degree of autonomy at the level of the field. I use this finding to develop the argument that death plays a critical role in how cultural fields achieve autonomy. Second, I find that irrespective of whether the field has a high or low degree of autonomy, critics ascribe coherence to an artist’s body of work to a much greater extent in reviews of posthumous offerings compared to reviews of lifetime offerings. I argue that coherence is highly valued within rock’s legitimating discourse and critics are more likely to attribute coherence to the works of deceased rock musicians which contributes to their symbolic advantage over their living counterparts.