Amst 513: THEORY IN INTERDISCIPLINARY CULTURAL STUDIES


Instructor: Prof. T.V. Reed, American Studies, Washington State University


COURSE DESCRIPTION ** REQUIRED TEXTS ** ASSIGNMENTS **

READING SCHEDULE: [WEEK 1-5] [WEEK 6-9] [WEEK 10-15]


WEB RESOURCE

The companion Website to this course is "Cultural Theory"


COURSE DESCRIPTION

"Theory is the sound made by the shifting ice floes of academic disciplines, breaking up or grinding against one another."
    -- Stefan Collini

"Theory is the name for the questions that arise when the answers we have about a topic no longer seem adequate to our understanding."
    -- Gerald Graff

"In order to do interdisciplinary work, it is not enough to take a 'subject' (a theme) and arrange two or three disciplines around it. Interdisciplinary study consists in creating a new object, which belongs to no one. "
    -- Roland Barthes

"If theory is taken to mean an intellectual framework, a problematic, that, by the form of its questions even more than the content of its answers, defines a certain intellectual terrain, then all thought is theoretical. The proposition is indeed tautological, since a theory or intellectual problematic is not that which merely shapes or contains thought (as though the latter somehow possessed an unshaped, uncontained earlier existence) but that which gives rise to the possibility of thought in the first place. It may be added that few theories are more narrow and dogmatic than those (like Anglo-American 'common sense') that remain oblivious or even hostile to their status as theories."
    -- Carl Freedman

"The only theory worth having is that which you have to fight off, not that which you speak with profound fluency."
    --Stuart Hall

"By reinforcing the idea that there is a split between theory and practice or by creating such a split, [we] deny the power of liberatory education for critical consciousness, thereby perpetuating conditions that reinforce our collective exploitation and repression."
    --bell hooks

The aim of this course is to introduce (or reintroduce) graduate students to some of the major theories and methods currently practiced in American studies and related interdisciplines, such as ethnic, cultural, women's and queer studies. The course is organized along two overlapping axes: 1) we will examine key concepts, including "culture," "race," "ethnicity," "formation," "class," "hegemony," "gender," "sexuality" and "imperialism"; and 2) we will discuss various elaborated theoretical positions, including race/ethnicity theories, marxisms, feminisms, post-structuralisms, queer, and post-colonial theories. While for purposes of analysis we will at times isolate these concepts and theories from one another, much of our work will emphasize conceptual and theoretical intersections.Throughout the course but especially in the second half, grand questions of theory and method will be grounded via examination of applied scholarship on U.S. culture.

The instructor takes the position that theorizing is an inherently political activity. Hence the choice of topical questions is built around what the instructor feels are key issues facing U.S. culture: racism, sexism, homophobia, class oppression and imperialism. But the topics list is not, as the Right would have it, a politically correct list to reinforce existing views. Rather it is a set of questions to be seriously explored. This is obviously not the only possible set of questions, and the instrutor hopes and expects to have this list challenged by the other particpants in the seminar.

Such a quick survey cannot hope to do justice to these complex theories, so the goal is to provide the tools to increase your literacy in reading theory and lay the groundwork for further study. The syllabus is a negotiable outline. We may add, subtract or otherwise change readings and topics as the interests and needs of the participants become clearer.


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.

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REQUIREMENTS

Grading for the course will be based on the following:

1. ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IN SEMINAR DISCUSSIONS. This is a discussion class, with only occasional mini-lectures as requested. Active participation in discussions is part of the commitment one makes in joining the class community. [20%]

2. WEBSITE REVIEW of the "Theory and Method" web pages. Choose one of the sections (or one subsection of the "Race, Gender, and Sexuality" page), familiarize yourself with the citations; analyze the inclusions and exclusions; suggest additions with annotations; and suggest changes to the section intro and/or annotations to make the site more user-friendly and effective. Suggestions for other changes to the site, including reorganized or new sections, new links, better navigation, or other possibilities for improving the site are also welcome. [10%]

DUE ON JAN 29th

3. CRITICAL BOOK REVIEW of an assigned book, written for a particular scholarly journal and emphasizing questions of theory and method. Reviews should be approximately 4 typed, double-spaced pages. Eligible books are those by Lee, Howard, Singer, Warrior, or McAlister. Reviews are due by the second session we discuss the book in class. [15%]

4. SEMINAR FACILITATION Each of you will serve as facilitator of the discussion for two or three sessions over the course of the semester. This entails reading the pieces assigned on those days with special care, doing some contextualizing research as needed, and serving as resident expert that day for the texts in question. Preparation will also include writing up and e-mailing to all class members discussion questions on the reading at least two days before the discussion. [15%]

5. SEMINAR PAPER
a) analyzing a theoretical issue that interests you; OR
b) applying theories and methods drawn from class readings to a text or topic that interests you ; OR
c) offering a draft theoretical introduction to a thesis or topic you are working on; OR
d) "translating" (bell hooks' term) the most useful ideas of the "academic" theory we read this semester for a specific, non-academic audience (union organizers, high school students, etc.), and for use on the "Theory and Method" website. Approximately 12-20 pp. [40%]

DUE ON MAY 9th

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COURSE TEXTS

All required texts are available in the Bookie.

Course Packet of Xeroxed Articles [Abbr. (X)]
Lipsitz, George. American Studies in a Moment of Danger [Abbrev: (ASMD)]
Maddox, Lucy, ed.
Locating American Studies [Abbrev: (LAS)]
Singh, Amritjit and Peter Schmidt, eds.
Postcolonial Theory and the U.S. [Abbrev: (PTUS)]
Warrior, Robert.
Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions
Singer, Beverly R.
Wiping the War Paint Off the Lens
Turner, William B.
A Genealogy of Queer Theory
Howard, John.
Men Like That: A Southern Queer History
Lee, Robert G.
Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture
McAlister, Melani.
Epic Encounters Culture, Media, and U.S. Interests in the Middle East


COURSE OUTLINE & WEEKLY READING SCHEDULE

Abbreviations: (X) for Course Packet; (O) for online reading; (LAS) for Locating American Studies; (ASMD) for American Studies in a Moment of Danger; (PTUS) for Postcolonial Theory and the United States.

WEEK 1: Tu -- Introductions; Setting Our Preliminary Course Agenda

Th -- What is Theory & Why Should We Theorize?
READINGS: C. Lemert, "Social Theory: Its Uses and Pleasures" (X)
b. hooks, "Theory as Liberatory Practive" (X)
T. Reed,
"Theory and Method in American/Cultural Studies " (O)


WEEK 2: T - On the Genealogy of American Studies
READINGS: G. Wise, "'Paradigm Dramas' in American Studies" (LAS)
G. Lipsitz, chps. 1-3 (ASMD)

Th -- On the Genealogy and Future of American Cultural Studies
READINGS: G. Lipsitz, chps. 4 and 12 (ASMD)
J. Radway,
"What's In a Name?"(ASA presidential address) (O)

FURTHER READING on the history of American Studies


WEEK 3: T -- Questions of Political Economy, Class & Hegemony (Marxisms)
READINGS: K. Marx, selected excerpts (X)
M. Denning, "'Special American Conditions': Marxism and American Studies" (X)
J.P. Surber, "The Materialist Critique of Culture" (X)

Th -- Further Questions of Political Economy, Class & Hegemony
READINGS: A. Gramsci, "Hegemony, Intellectuals, and the State" (X)
T. J. J. Lears, "The Concept of Cultural Hegemony" (X)
L. Althusser, "Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses" (X)
S. Hall, "The Problem of Ideology: Marxism without Guarantees" (X)

FURTHER READING on Marxist Theories


WEEK 4: T -- Questions of Race/Ethnicity (Racial Theories)
READINGS: M. Omi & H. Winant, from Racial Formation in the United States(X)
E. San Juan, Jr., from Racial Formations, Critical Transformations
(X)

Th -- Further Questions of Race/Ethnicity
READINGS: R. Perez-Torres, "Refiguring Atzlan" (PTUS)
S. Hall, "Gramsci's Relevance for the Study of Race and Ethnicity" (X)
J. Flores, "Broken English Memories" (PTUS)
L. Majaj, "Arab Americans and the Meaning of Race" (PTUS)

FURTHER READING on Race/Ethnicity Theories

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WEEK 5: T -- Questions of Gender
READINGS: W. Kolmar and F. Bartkowski, eds., from Feminist Theory (X)
essays by Welter, Kerber, Baym and Radway (LAS)

Th -- Further Questions of Gender
READINGS: essays by Anzaldua, Scott, Mohanty, Haraway, Sandoval (X)

FURTHER READING on Gender Theories


WEEK 6: T -- Post-structural Questions
READINGS: J. P. Surber, "Poststructuralist and Postmodernist Discources" (X)
B. Agger, "The Politics of Grand Narratives: From Derrida to Difference Theory" (X)

Th -- More Post-structural Questions
READINGS: M. Foucault, selected excerpts (X)
J. Scott, "Deconstructing Equality vs. Difference"

FURTHER READING on Post-structuralist & Postmodern Theories


WEEK 7: T -- Que(e)ries for Theories (Lesbian/Gay//Queer Theories)
READINGS: W. Turner, A Genealogy of Queer Theory 1-82

Th -- Further Que(e)ries for Theories
READINGS: W. Turner, A Genealogy of Queer Theory 83-228
L. Duggan, "Making It Perfectly Queer" (X)
K. Mumford, "Homosex Changes: Race...and the Emergence of the Gay" (LAS)

FURTHER READING on Lesbian/Gay/Queer Theories


WEEK 8: T -- Queering the South
READINGS J. Howard, Men Like That

Th -- More Southern Queering
READINGS: J. Howard, Men Like That
K. Floyd, "Making History: Marxism, Queer Theory and Contradictions in the Future of American Studies" (X)

 

WEEK 9: T -- Questions of Imperialism/Colonialism (Anti-/Post-colonial Theories)
READINGS: A. Singh and P. Schmidt, "On the Borders Between U.S. Studies and Postcolonial Theory," (PTUS)
A. Kaplan, "Left Alone with America: Absence of Empire in the Study of American Culture" (X)

Th -- (Post)Colonial United States Studies?
READINGS:A. Kaplan, "Romancing the Empire" (PTUS)
B. Simon, "Hybridity in the Americas" (PTUS)
I. Salazar, "Can You Go Home Again?: Transgression and Transformation in African American Women's and Chicana Literary Practice" (PTUS)

FURTHER READING on Anti-/Post-colonial Theories

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Spring Break


WEEK 10: T 6-- Native/American Indians, Colonialism and Tribal Secrets
READINGS: R. Warrior, Tribal Secrets

Th -- More Secrets, More (post)Colonialism
READINGS: R. Warrior, Tribal Secrets
A. Krupat, "Postcolonialism, Ideology and Native American Literature" (PTUS)


WEEK 11: T -- Wiping the Warpaint off the Lenses of Theory
READINGS: B. Singer, Wiping the Warpaint Off the Lens: Native American Film

Th -- Literacy, Literature, and Indian (post)Colonialism
READINGS: J. Sequoya Magdeleno, "How(!) Is an Indian?" (PTUS)
M. Konkle, "Indian Literature, U.S. Colonialism, and Literary Crticism" (PTUS)


WEEK 12: T -- Confronting American Orientalisms
READINGS: R. Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culure
S.C. Wong, "Denationalization Reconsidered" (PTUS)

Th -- No class


WEEK 13: T -- More Orientalism, More Resistance
READINGS : R. Lee, Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culure
K. Wong, "The Transformation of Culture: Three Chinese Views" (LAS)

Th -- No class session: Pacific Northwest ASA conference


WEEK 14: T -- Epic Encounters with Race, Class, Gender, Sex & Empire
READINGS: M. McAlister, Epic Encounters

Th -- More Epic Encounters
READINGS M. McAlister, Epic Encounters


WEEK 15: Papers in progress discussion & course conclusion(s)



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