Course: AMST/ENGL 471: American Cultural Politics
Since World War II: Popular Culture
Instructor: T.V. (Tim) Reed, English and American
Time: Tues. & Thurs. 9:10-10:25
Place: CUE 416, Washington State University
Professor's Office Hours: Th 3-4:30 & Fri 10-11:30
in Wilson 104. And other times by appointment at ext 5-1560.
E-mail the professor at [email@example.com] or by clicking
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This course provides an upper-level introduction
to critical issues and approaches in the study of recent American popular
culture. We will explore the ways in which each of us is both a user
of and is used by popular culture. Popular culture is all around us,
influencing how we think, how we feel, how we vote, how we live our
lives in countless ways. This course will use your own expertise as
consumers of popular culture as a take-off point for exploring the various
roles played by mass-mediated popular culture in our lives.
Popular culture analysis occurs in a number
of different fields, including Sociology, Communications, Anthropology,
History, Cultural Studies, English, Women's Studies, Ethnic Studies,
and American Studies. Part of the task of this course will be to refine
further your ability to read, evaluate, and synthesize materials from
these different disciplines into your own interdisciplinary analyses.
We will look primarily at television, film,
advertising, popular music, and computer cyberculture, with occasional
forays into other types of pop culture. We will analyze how such critical
factors as ethnicity, race, gender, class, age, region, and sexuality
are shaped by and reshaped in popular culture.
The course offers you a chance to learn to
use a variety of critical approaches to studying popular culture. The
approaches we will use center around four main dimensions of pop culture:
1) Production Analysis (who owns the media?
who makes these texts? with what intentions? under what technical constraints?
how democratic or elitist is the production of popular culture? how
much is commerce? how much creative expression?)
2) Textual Analysis (how do specific works
of popular culture make their meanings? how do explicit meanings differ
from implied ones? how do texts consciously and subconsciously shape
those who hear, see, or touch them?)
3) Audience Analysis (how do different groups
of popular culture consumers, or users, make similar or different sense
of the same texts?)
4) Historical Analysis (how have these other
three dimensions changed over time? how does current popular culture
differ from that of ten, twenty, or thirty years ago? what accounts
for the changes?)
We will learn these approaches through readings,
discussions, assignments, and teaching them to others. Teaching them
to others will take the form of "publishing" your work on
the World Wide Web. Part of the work of the class will be to analyze,
and work to improve the Web resources pages [www.wsu.edu/~amerstu/pop/tvrguide.html]
connected to the course in order to make them more effective tools for
other students and scholars to use. You will not, however, be graded
on your technical expertise, and support for any of the Web work done
in the course will be provided upon request. I also expect that students
will be willing to assist each other in these matters. Indeed, "team"
projects are encouraged for the final, web-based projects.
REASONABLE ACCOMMODATIONS are available for
students who have a documented disability. Please notify the instructor
during the first week of class of any accommodations needed for this
course. Late notification may cause the requested accommodations to
be unavailable. All accommodations must be approved through the Disability
Resource Center (DRC) in Administration Annex 206, 335-1566.
ACADEMIC HONESTY: Plagiarism of any kind, whether
from books, paper archives, or Internet sources, is grounds for immediate
failure of the course. You may also be subject to further punitive action
from the University, up to and including dismissal.
Dines/Humez, eds. GENDER, RACE AND CLASS IN
THE MEDIA (Abbr. GRC) Second Edition only
Book is available in the Students Book Corporation
(Bookie) under Amst and Engl both.
NOTE: Some of the class readings are available
ONLY ONLINE, linked through this electronic version of the syllabus.
Online readings appear as lighter-colored, underlined pieces on the
hard copy of this syllabus. Note also that there are some LIBRARY RESERVE readings on a couple of days.
GRADING REQUIREMENTS & ASSIGNMENTS
Active participation in class discussions.
Grade value: 15%
This is a discussion class in which your active
participation is an essential part of your grade. And the best way to
feel confident to talk in class is to come prepared, having read and
thought about the assigned readings.
Grade value: 15%
On a random basis over the course of the semester
you will have a series of short-answer quizzes on the readings at the
beginning of class. The purpose of the quizzes is to let me know which
concepts are coming through well, and which ones I may need to go over
again. You will get one per cent of credit for each correctly answered
question up to a total of 15%. There will be a two extra quizzes, but
if you miss more than two you will be losing percentage points.
Short paper #1 (3pp.) Grade value 15%
Film Review: You will write a review of two
films we will see in class, "Ethnic Notions" and "Color
Adjustment." You will write as if you were writing for a journal
called History and Film, and will analyze one or more themes present in both
films. The purpose is to demonstrate your understanding of the changing
nature of popular culture over the course of historical development.
for the full assignment.
Short paper #2
(4pp.) Grade value: 20%
Textual/Production Analysis: You will analyze
an advertisement from a mass circulation magazine or newspaper that
deals with an item of clothing you or someone you knows wears. At the
same time, you will research the company that makes the item, learning
about the production process that is invisible in the advertising. The
purpose of the paper is to give you a chance to apply our work on "semiotic"
textual analysis, and to learn how to research and analyze the material
Click here for the full assignment, and links
Final Website or Paper Project. Grade value
This Website project will present a multimedia
critical analysis of or critical introduction to some aspect of popular
culture, with hyperlinks to other relevant sites and sources. Part of
the aim of the project should be to provide new materials not covered
in the existing Web resources page. What you design and how you design
it is restricted only by your imagination. You will not be graded on
your technical expertise, and technical assistance will be provided
for anyone who wishes it. Technical literacy is an increasingly useful
skill, but for those who wish it, the option of a traditional final
paper is also available.
A PRELIMINARY PROJECT DESCRIPTION will be DUE
April 10 for feeback from the instructor, and on April 22nd we will
do IN CLASS PEER REVIEWS of the work in progress. The preliminary description
should include a brief list of books, articles and web sites you will
consult in making the project. I am also willing to look at first drafts
of final projects, provided the URL is given to me at least 10 days
before they are due. Projects involving two or more people are welcome,
and I am happy to discuss ways to insure that each member of the team
is fairly and individually evaluated. The class will work to collectively
identify projects we think members the class should undertake.
Projects will be presented to the class during the time scheduled for
our final exam session.
Cick here for a longer
description of the term paper and web projects (including sample
web projects and resources for learning to build web pages).
THE FINAL PAPER or WEBSITE PROJECT URL IS DUE
BY 4:30 ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 9th. No late projects will be accepted.