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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Maya Smorodinsky
ENGL 207
Seattle Campus

Introduction to Cultural Studies

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.

Class description

Cultural Studies is a method of looking at and analyzing cultural phenomenon. It is a "way of reading" generated from diverse critical practices and academic disciplines: this method draws from literary theory, media studies, sociology, political economy, cultural anthropology, philosophy, and art history/criticism. In this class, we will take a Cultural Studies perspective and ask: what is this thing we call "culture"? How do we read different forms of culture and why? What are different critical practices and methodologies for unpacking cultural production such as commercials, films, or novels? How do we understand and analyze the intersections of cultural and social formations like race, gender, class, nation, and sexuality? In order to become Cultural Studies scholars, we will read and engage with a range of important cultural theorists such as Judith Butler, Gayatri Spivak, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault, Raymond Williams, among others.

After gaining a Cultural Studies vocabulary and filling our theoretical toolboxes, we will address the nature of *consumption* in a culture of neo-colonialism, neo-liberalism, and globalization. We will ask: in our era, how is culture consumable and consumed (through food, tourism, education, Hollywood, nostalgia, etc)? How does globalized capitalism produce, limit, or delineate the possibilities of consumption? How are the arguments, contentions, and negotiations over identity (especially in terms of multiculturalism) part of a globalized consumer culture? How is consumption structured by race, gender, and class and vice versa? We will look at different artifacts that speak to our questions, such as television shows (ex: Bones, Modern Family, Glee), advertisements (ex: Super Bowl commercials), urban landscapes (ex: the International District), and novels (ex: Zadie Smith’s White Teeth).

This class runs on the interactions between you and your peers. In order to succeed in this class, you should be prepared to participate in both large group discussions and small group work. The writing component of this class includes several short assignments throughout the quarter, and a final research project (where you put your Cultural Studies scholarship to work).

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Maya Smorodinsky
Date: 10/19/2011