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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Jentery F Sayers
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

FOR AUTUMN 2008: It is rather easy to get distracted these days, and we have the keywords to prove it: on demand, hyperattention and multitasking, to name but a few. Of course, these keywords are not empty. They are associated with practices -- embodied practices, cultural practices, technological practices. That is quite a complex mix, the analysis of which demands an array of texts and contexts. In this course, we will attempt such an analysis by, first, historically locating Cultural Studies and learning how it emerged as a critical framework. We will then follow a series of trajectories, unpacking how technology is culturally embedded and unfolding its effects on sense experience. These trajectories will explore conversations about animation and what is implied by being animated, in tandem with inquiries into technology-enhanced perception, human-technology relations, the senses and consumer culture, and digitizing race, gender and sexuality. Along the way, we will also consider how Cultural Studies, which tends to situate and make sense of bodies as socially or discursively constructed, might address some more transitional aspects of embodiment (including sensation, movement and affect) that are difficult to pin down. But for now, one thing is certain: we will entertain -- and even get distracted by -- matters in excess of thought.

Writing credit (a W) is an option for this course.

Texts: Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, 1818. [Norton Critical Edition, 0393964582]

Pynchon, Thomas. The Crying of Lot 49, 1966. [006091307X]

Moore, Alan, Steve Bissette, and John Totleben. Swamp Thing, Vol. 1: Saga of the Swamp Thing, 1984. [0930289226]

Sterling, Bruce and Lorraine Wild. Shaping Things, 2005. [0262693267]

Planet Earth, 2006. [BBC television series]

A.L.I.C.E. chatterbot, 1995. [web-bot]

McLuhan, Marshall. The Medium Is the Massage, 1967. [audio book]

Jackson, Shelley. Patchwork Girl, 1995. [electronic literature, 1884511236], and

A course reader with readings related to comics, cybernetics, artificial intelligence, cultural studies methodologies, and digitizing race, gender, and sexuality.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Student Participation: Please note this is not a lecture course. Class meetings will be driven by facilitated conversations. Also expected are: Clever and critical engagements with a variety of texts and media (e.g., television shows, novels, electronic literature, advertisements, and comics), active in-class participation and presentations, and (outside of the classroom) contributions to the class blog.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Student Writing: A series of short blogging assignments on the class blog will instruct students in how to read through a Cultural Studies lens and stress the critical value of that lens. Over the duration of the quarter, students will translate their blog entries and in-class participation into a final research paper (6-8 pages). If interested, students will be encouraged to produce digital webtext versions of their final papers.

Again, writing credit (a W) is an option for this course, in which case the above writing requirements will be adjusted.


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 Jentery F Sayers
Date: 08/24/2008