Rachel T Goldberg
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.
For AUTUMN 2007: A commonplace about cultural studies is that it is “difficult to define.” With that in mind, this course will begin by tracing the emergence and development of various methods and modes of inquiry that may be categorized as cultural studies. We will focus especially on cultural theorists who examine and the way that the production and consumption of U.S. mass media helps create and maintain certain power structures and ideologies, and the possibilities for resistance in this framework (through the use of underground or alternative media, culture jamming, direct political action, political art, consumer boycotts, etc.) With a conceptual vocabulary and a groundwork for analyzing language and discourse in place, we will move on to investigate cultural studies as an academic discipline, with a focus on the political and social goals of cultural studies as a type of critique in the university. We will be discussing the reasons and claims for doing cultural studies in the first place: why do theorists and practitioners believe this kind of work is important? Why do you think it is important intellectual or academic or political work (or not)? As we investigate together the claims cultural studies makes for itself, we will also take a look at the seeming gap between the public’s perception of cultural scholarship, and cultural studies practitioners’ own arguments for their work. Given that many cultural theorists are interested in social justice issues, we will interrogate the possibility for social change within contemporary cultural studies rubrics. We will discuss whether or not studying mass culture (news media in particular) through the lens of cultural studies can also make room for strategizing ways to speak back to, or actively engage with, mass media and mass mediated forms of political discourse. At the end of the course, you will theorize and enact ways of making the institutionalized study and practice of culture more civically engaged.
I consider the classroom to be a participatory public, which requires active engagement from all of us in order to be a productive space. This is not a lecture class. You should be prepared to do a lot of writing, reading, observing, and discussing both in and outside of class, and be able to articulate your goals for the course and for particular assignments we are working on – and I, in return, will be responsive to your individual and collective interests. Your assignments will include weekly postings to a discussion board, two group projects and presentations (one of which will serve as a “midterm” grade), and a number of multi-modal textual projects aimed at various audiences (one of which will serve as the equivalent of a “final exam” project). Texts: Photocopied course pack, which will include excerpted texts from classic cultural studies scholars like Stuart Hall (on the importance of political work in cultural studies), Dick Hebdige (on youth subcultures and power/resistance), Jurgen Habermas (on mass media and the public sphere) and Edward Said (on public intellectuals and the academy). The course pack will also include readings by social theorist Anthony Giddens (on the structure of society and culture and the relationship between society and individuals), Norman Fairclough (on language, power and discourse), and Naomi Klein (on forms of anti-corporate activism). You will also be looking online at a number of cultural studies syllabi and program descriptions, citizen-journalist sites, and mass, corporate media articles.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading