Michael L. Goldberg
Explores the interaction between consumer culture and popular culture emphasizing literature, history, and theory. Stresses diverse interpretive approaches within American Studies.
This course will focus on three phenomena, organized into learning modules, in order to explore key issues and methods in the study of popular and consumer culture. The three modules—the new upper class and consumer culture, the O.J. Simpson trial and its aftermath, and the attacks of September 11—are loosely linked by these common questions: who makes "popular culture"? How is meaning produced and who controls the making of meaning? How much control do ordinary people have in determining the content and meaning of popular culture, and how much control resides with corporate institutions and powerful individuals? How does popular culture operate in the creation of group and individual identities, and how does it mask, expose, and negotiate differences of class, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, religion, and other cultural markers? To answer these questions, the course will use a "hands on" approach to interpreting popular culture texts. I will lecture occasionally but the bulk of the time will be taken up with your direct engagement with the material.
The modules use three analytical approaches: semiotics, narrative analysis and audience reception analysis, which together provide an understanding of discourse. We will be explaining these terms and applying them throughout the course. Throughout this process, you will be provided with ample support material available, which will be available on the Blackboard course site. In addition, each module will have at least one in-class workshop day in which I model the methods to be used, and students will have an opportunity to use them in a workshop setting.
Student learning goals
Ability to apply semiotic analysis to a range of popular culture texts in an analytical essay.
Ability to apply narrative analysis to a range of popular culture texts in an analytical essay.
Ability to apply different theoretical models of mass media studies to a range of popular culture texts and understand the process of production, distribution, and audience reception.
Greater understanding of the cultural meaning and societal impact of the new upper class and consumer culture, the O.J. Simpson media spectacle, and Sept. 11 and its aftermath.
Ability to create a multimedia narrative using semiotics about Sept. 11 and its aftermath based on research into a sub-topic.
Ability to master information literacy skills and practice online collaborative learning for short a research project.
General method of instruction
Lectures, workshops, online group work.
Class assignments and grading
Short analytical essays based on applying theories and concepts learned in class. Group research project, and multimedia project based on the research.
Modules are worth 30%, 30% and 40%. Group participation grade included.