GERM-602 Cult Theo and Germ Pop Cult
Fall for 2017-2018
In the last fifty years, the study of culture in the humanities, including literature and language departments, has embraced an expanded notion of culture that not only opened up the canon to include a much larger range of popular and mass-produced texts, objects, and practices, but has become premised on a concept of culture as the arena in which struggles over meanings, identity, knowledge, and power are carried out. Practitioners of German cultural studies have sought to more rigorously connect German cultural products and practices to questions of power, agency, and change, and reconsider the role of the scholar, no longer conceived as gatekeeper of aesthetic standards, but as ‘organic intellectual’ (Gramsci) cognizant of the partiality of her or his perspective, investments, and commitments. The theoretical adjustments and institutional changes that have attended the orientation of many American German departments towards cultural studies have also been criticized—for valuing products of low aesthetic quality, for privileging politics or moralizing over rigorous analysis, and for blurring the lines of ‘German’ culture in attending to transnational and global products and circuits.

This seminar will take us through the major theoretical and methodological, and disciplinary shifts and controversies sketched above, familiarize you with the main thinkers and paradigms in cultural studies, and attend to the debates that attended the (partial) transformation of our field. There will be four units: (1) Frankfurt School: theories of mass culture; (2) Reconsidering the User: the Ethnographic Turn; (3) Sexuality, Race, and the Visual (4) Gender: Identity and Performativity.

Since this is a reading-intensive seminar, we will spend the bulk of our time discussing texts, and learn to read, analyze, and criticize theoretical writing. Students will introduce texts and facilitate discussions in pairs for each session. The format of the 2.5 hour seminar allows us to explore applications of theoretical concepts and new methodologies within most of the sessions.

Readings (in both German and English) will be primarily theoretical, interspersed with application sessions in which we work through theoretical questions and test our analytical tools.
Credits: 3
Prerequisites: None
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