ENGL-265 Intro to Cultural Studies
Spring for 2016-2017
In the first half, to familiarize ourselves with the new science of Cultural Studies as practiced in the US and UK today by reading canonical and newer works in the field. Cultural Studies is the critical interpretation of cultural objects and events with the object of changing society. We will explore how cultural objects interlace categories of class, race, gender, nation and sexuality to produce a "cultural ensemble of power" that performs actual work in the world. Our job will be to understand how this works and how to use it to produce non-violent but revolutionary change.
We will discuss the history and theoretical contours of the field from the formation of the Birmingham Center for the Study of Contemporary Culture in the early 1960s to the present, charting its main theoretical and practical influences in contemporary social movements, and their relationship to other organizations like the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. Topics will include Marxism and decolonization, feminism, anti-racism, queer equality, deconstruction, postcolonialism, postmodernism and media literacy.
The special emphasis of the second half will be to examine what practical difference we can make in society by practicing culture as forms of expression and dissent. Our attention will be geared partially to events on campus such as those organized by the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice and to the Program on Justice and Peace. We will also study activism on campus and at large such as the fossil fuel divestment campaign and USAS, LGBTQ demands and the diversity drive, new social movements like Black Lives Matter and the Occupy Movement. Students will develop independent research projects.
The teaching approach to this course will be heavily influenced by methods developed in the Doyle and ITEL programs.
Learning Goals: As an undergraduate introduction, this course has four main objectives. Over the course of the semester students who take this class should expect . . .
1. to survey theories and fictions of Culture Studies in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries in the United States, Britain, and globally;
2. to gain a broad but disciplined understanding of the major themes, debates, and approaches that are central to the field of Cultural Studies in its present configuration;
3. to improve their ability to discern how cultural texts shape, and are shaped by, historical contexts; and
4. to work toward achieving professional levels of writing, research, and critical engagement.
Experience in the field of Cultural Studies isn’t a prerequisite for this course. However, a cursory knowledge of the basic terms and techniques of cultural analysis will likely prove helpful. The Recommended reading on reserve at Lauinger will help guide your explorations.
Other academic years
There is information about this course number in other academic years: