E. Laurie George
Introduces cultural studies as an interdisciplinary field and practice. Explores multiple histories of the field with an emphasis on current issues and developments. Focuses on culture as a site of political and social debate and struggle. Offered: AWSp.
Course Description & Goals
"If an exploration of a particular culture will lead to a heightened understanding of a work of literature produced within that culture, so too a careful reading of a work of literature will lead to a heightened understanding of the culture within which it was produced"
--Stephen Greenblatt, "Culture"
"Culture shapes the way we think; it tells us what “makes sense.” It holds people together by providing us with a shared set of customs, values, ideas, and beliefs, as well as a common language. We live enmeshed in this cultural web; it influences the way we relate to others, the way we look, our tastes, our habits; it enters our dreams and desires. But as culture binds us together it also selectively blinds us. As we grow up, we accept ways of looking at the world, ways of thinking and being that might best be characterized as cultural frames of reference or cultural myths. These myths help us to understand our place in the world—our place as prescribed by our culture. They define our relationships to friends and lovers, to the past and future, to nature, to power, and to nation. Becoming a critical thinker means learning how to look beyond these cultural myths and the assumptions embedded in them.”
--Gary Colombo, Robert Cullen, Bonnie Lisle _Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing_
“Culture,” as Stephen Greenblatt goes on to explain in his essay, is defined by the traditions, beliefs, customs, habits and practices of a society, all of which form the basis of social institutions. Practitioners of cultural criticism assume that all of us—citizens, readers, politicians, children, shoppers, stock brokers, authors, directors, baristas, literary critics, etc.--are products consciously or unconsciously of our culture.
In this class, we will become practitioners of cultural criticism, augmenting more traditional ways of interpreting meaning and value in literary texts. This method of reading will allow us to mine the cultural assumptions and myths sometimes deeply embedded in an author’s or filmmaker’s text, relate those assumptions to real-world social contexts, and, finally, decide to what degree the textual representation of that culture invites us to cultivate, critique, or even condemn its frames of reference and mythologies.
Thus goals for the course include:
• Defining the discipline of cultural studies
• “Close reading” as well as contextually interpreting “literary,” film,and Internet texts from critical and cultural points of view
• Understanding the value of employing these dual approaches when reading both traditional and nontraditional (“literary” and ‘popular”) texts--cultural criticism crosses and collapses borders between “literary” and “popular” genres—so-called “high” and “low” arts--validating the study of traditional as well as less traditional forms of aesthetic expression.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
The class is largely based on reading (print and film texts), discussion, and written analysis. We'll also do in-class research of UW online data bases. Weekly attendance and active in-person participation are crucial because of the intensive nature of the course.
Class assignments and grading
Most written assignments will be analytical and short essay (1 page); there will be a final exam on the last day of class.
Discussion, research, presentations, short critical writings, final exam