Heyang Julie Kae
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.
Cultural Studies and the Promiscuous Archive
The course will ask what ‘cultural studies’ entails and how defining ‘culture’ requires consideration of political and economic institutions that influence how we define culture as a discrete sphere of social practice. While cultural studies has derived its inquiry and methodologies from specific intellectual and institutional formations, this field of study is also the subject of heated criticism. Interestingly, some critics of cultural studies question the value and consequences of researching the broad cultural sphere, namely popular media and mass culture, to suggest that such research opens the humanities to ‘unserious’ knowledge production. Bracketing these critiques, this course will take up ‘archival promiscuity’ as both an animating feature and a generative problem in cultural studies practice.
Exploring what cultural studies does and what sources cultural studies uses to derive its critiques, this section will focus on two thematic scenes: the classroom and the workplace. We will think about how different examples of cultural production (fiction, poetry, music and television) have taken up these scenes and denaturalized their boundaries. As ‘promiscuous’ spaces, we will consider how these scenes produce and are produced by discourse of class, race, sex and gender. We will also consider how exploring these scenes for their geo-historical specificity demands research that violates the boundary of media specific study and therefore requires a kind of promiscuous method. As we think through the stakes of cultural studies, we will emphasize how methodologies of cultural study provide us with powerful investigative tools to problematize culture’s relationship to ideology, and offer ways to think about sites of resistance to ideological domination.
Our ‘promiscuous archive’ will draw from novels, films, and television from the following list: John dos Passos’ The Big Money, Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go, Don DeLillo’s White Noise, Jamaica Kincaid’s Lucy, Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone, Li Thi Diem Thi’s The Gangster We Are All Looking For, Rebel without a Cause (1957), American Psycho (1999), NBC’s The Office, HBO’s The Wire.
Required texts: Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go (ISBN - 1560254459) Don DeLillo’s White Noise (ISBN - 0140077022) Fae Myenne Ng’s Bone (ISBN - 006097592X)
A course packet with key theoretical works by Antonio Gramsci, Raymond Williams, Walter Benjamin, Louis Althusser, Stuart Hall, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkeimer, Michel Foucault, Gayatri Spivak, will also be required.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
class discussion, some lecture
This class includes some dense theoretical reading that will push your critical thinking skills. Students are not expected to gain mastery over this material, but will be expected to learn how to extract and apply key concepts in their own analytical writing.
Class assignments and grading
presentations, synthesis papers, midterm, final paper, quizzes