This course looks closely at popular culture by way of film, television, literature, and cyberspace. We begin by asking what signifies nation, self, and other in the 21st century? What texts resist and reaffirm class, race, gender, and popular culture itself? In what ways has the internet transformed human relations?
A play, a novel, a film, a TV show, and an internet site. We’ll define popular culture through these five primary texts with the help of literary theory, film theory, new media studies, and cultural studies. Our friendly, workshop-style environment will promote productive peer review, class discussions, and inspiring group projects.
5 Primary Texts
Gilbert. You Only Live Twice (1967)
Morrison. Sula (1973)
Star. Sex and the City (1998 - 2004)
Williams. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1955)
Zuckerberg et al. Facebook.com (2004 - present)
Allen. Annie Hall
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice
Bordo. "'Material Girl': The Effacement of Postmodern Culture"
Butler. "Imitation and Gender Insubordination"
Crowe. Jerry Maguire
DaCosta. The Music Man
de Beauvoir. The Second Sex (excerpt)
Fiske. Television Culture (excerpt)
Foucault. The History of Sexuality (excerpt)
Harron. American Psycho
McDonald. The Romantic Comedy: Boy Meets Girl Meets Genre
Nichols. The Graduate
Said. Orientalism (excerpt)
Saussure. Course in General Linguistics (excerpt)
- Understand that popular culture signifies and shapes political, familial, and institutional sources of selfhood and human relations
- Comprehend verbal and visual representations of these disciplinary forces through literal, implied, and symbolic levels
- Identify a text’s point of view, tone, exposition, and audience
- Analyze ideology through the textual and visual
- Gain cultural literacy through experiencing films, internet sites, and literary works
- Ethnography 10%
- Midterm Exam 25%
- Primary Text Class Presentation 10%
- Final Exam 30%
- Moodle Weekly Reflections (250 - 500 words) 25%
1. Ethnography 10%
Ethnography is a genre of writing that uses fieldwork to provide a descriptive study of human societies. Yours consists of two parts: observation and analysis. First, choose a setting where people go and where you can sit and observe uninterrupted for at least an hour, e.g., Starbucks, library, park, restaurant, bowling alley, etc.
Write down your observations. Try to be objective. Second, under your observation, write a brief analysis informed by the theory we've discussed thus far. Your ethnography will look like this:
- First half is observation. Write down what you see, not what you think it means
- Second half is analysis. Use our texts to make sense of your observations
- @ 750 words (three pages)
- Hardcopy for class discussion and instructor review
2. Midterm 25%
Your midterm exam will consist of mutliple choice and short answers and cover the course content discussed up to midterm.
3. Primary Text Class Presentation 10 %
In groups of six or seven, select one of our primary texts (Sula, You Only Live Twice , Sex and the City, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, or Facebook.com) and discuss your choice in terms of our understanding of popular culture and theory. This 30-minute class presentation is a discussion not a lecture. Help your classmates analyze content, genre, and technique. Consider how your primary text presents class, race, gender, nationalism, and so on as well as resists and/or reaffirms old ways of seeing human relations. Note the following responsibilities:
- Design a classroom activity
- Each individual writes a 250 - 500 word reflection that states in explicit terms how s/he contributed to the group presentation.
4. Final Exam 30%
Your final exam will consist of multiple choice and short answer questions representing the entire course content.
5. Moodle Weekly Reflections 25%
Each week, post an informal yet thoughtful response to our readings and class discussions. This reflection is an important part of our coursework and a great opportunity for you to establish a meaningful dialogue with your classmates since they will post here, too. Aim for clear, convincing reflections in a conversational tone. Make connections to texts and things outside the class; go beyond summarizing.
There is no percentage or points ascribed to participation since participation is mandatory. Class participation includes attendance, discussions, student-instructor conferences, and workshop activities. Everyone has something to contribute to the class. If you do not feel comfortable speaking in class you may participate in other ways, such as group activities, peer review. Although participation grades will not be distributed, I will be happy to discuss any questions you have about your progress.
NOTE: Late work will not be accepted unless you have obtained an extension from me ahead of time. You must submit your essay even if you miss class on its due date.
When you enroll in our class you make a commitment to your classmates. This is a participatory, collaborative workshop-style class and attendance is absolutely essential to our success. Since we meet only twice per week, grades are dropped a letter after three absences and an F is given after six. All work is due on the date specified in our syllabus. You are responsible for completing and submitting any work due for a day that you miss and you must come prepared with any work required for the following class. Please feel free to contact me or see me during my office hours to learn what you missed and how to prepare for the next session.
You must complete all work to pass the course. Your Moodle posts, ethnography, presentation-reflection, and exams will be graded as individual projects. You'll receive a midterm exam grade, but all other projects will be graded at the semester's end, particularly since not all of you will have completed the same amount of work by midterm, e.g., presentations. Please feel free to come by my office or email me if you'd like to discuss your progress and/or other concerns during the semester.
You must be scrupulously honest in documenting the work that you have drawn from others. Like other institutions, CSUN Primarytains a strict academic honesty policy. Plagiarism is illegal and dishonest. All cases of academic dishonesty must be reported to the Dean, who may suspend or permanently dismiss you from CSUN. You will receive a course grade of F if you plagiarize in E313.
Course requirements and policies are subject to change; not all readings are represented below. Work is due on the date it appears.
Scenes from American Psycho
1/27 Syllabus Review
"The Politics of Culture"
Form Presentation Groups
2/1 Barker. Chapter 2: “Questions of Culture and Ideology”
"Ya Got Trouble": Music Man Ideology and Culture
2/3 Barker. Chapter 3: “Culture, Meaning, Knowledge”
de Beauvoir. The Second Sex (Moodle)
Scenes from Jerry Maguire
2/8 Saussure. Course in General Linguistics (Moodle)
2/10 Williams. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Dukore. "The Cat has Nine Lives" (Moodle)
2/15 Group #1: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
2/17 Barker. Chapter 7: "Issues of Subjectivity and Identity"
Carpenter. "Gender and the Meaning and Experience of Virginity Loss in the Contemporary United States" (Moodle)
2/22 Barker. Chapter 8: "Ethnicity, Race and Nation"
2/24 Ethnography Due
3/1 Morrison. Sula
3/3 Group #2: Sula
3/8 Barker. Chapter 5: "A New World Disorder?"
3/10 Barker. Chapter 14. "Cultural Politics and Cultural Policy"
Said. Orientalism (Moodle)
Baron. "Dr. No: Bonding Britishness to Racial Sovereignty" (Moodle)
3/15 You Only Live Twice
Bennett and Woollacott. "The Moments of Bond" (Moodle)
Black. "Cold War Stories"
3/17 Group #3 You Only Live Twice
3/22 McDonald. Chapter 3: “The Sex Comedy” (Moodle)
Foucault. The History of Sexuality (Moodle)
Scenes from "10"
3/24 Barker. Chapter 9: “Sex, Subjectivity and Representation”
McDonald. Chapter 4: “The Radical Romantic Comedy” (Moodle)
Scenes from The Graduate
3/29 MIDTERM EXAM
3/31 No class: Cesar Chavez Day
4/5 No Class: Spring Recess
4/7 No Class: Spring Recess
4/12 Annie Hall
4/14 Barker. Chapter 10: “Television, Texts and Audiences”
4/19 Barker. Chapter 12: “Cultural Space and Urban Place”
4/21 Barker. Chapter 13: "Youth, Style and Resistance"
4/26 Group #4: Sex and the City
4/28 Barker. Chapter 6: “Enter Postmodernism"
5/3 Barker. Chapter 11: "Digital Media Culture"
Bordo. "'Material Girl': The Effacement of Postmodern Culture" (Moodle)
5/10 Group #5: Facebook.com
5/12 Course Review and Final Thoughts
5/19 FINAL EXAM 12:45 PM - 02:45 PM