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Cultural Studies Program

Courses :: CULS C601 Topic: Introduction to Cultural Studies

This course is cross-listed between English and Cultural Studies and meets the core requirement for the Ph.D. minor in Cultural Studies. It is open to all interested graduate students.

This introduction to cultural theory has two aims:  1) to read the foundational texts and intellectual history of contemporary cultural studies, and 2) to consider the challenge posed by the move from subject- to object-centered theories to a field that takes the dialectic of culture and consciousness as its foundational concern.
Beginning with the Frankfurt School’s turn toward cultural Marxism, we will proceed to the Birmingham Center for Cultural Studies’ incorporation of structuralism, and thence to the challenge of poststructuralism.  In this history we see the division that expresses itself in the debate, ubiquitous in contemporary cultural studies, between post-Marxism and various theories of the public sphere.  As we follow the trajectory of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century breaks with Cartesian humanism to the anti-humanism of subsequent theories of subjectivity, we will discuss how the latter have influenced analyses of popular and expressive cultural practices.  Finally, we will ask what happens to the subject and to attendant questions of agency as we move to object-centered and post-humanist speculations.

How is culture defined and what is its relationship to economic and political structures? How are cultural meanings produced, circulated and consumed?  What is the relationship between high, mass and popular cultural productions?  How do cultural formations produce patterns of individuated subjectivity and social relationships, and how do we think about agency?  With such questions to guide us, we will examine both the methods and the objects of cultural studies scholarship.

Assignments likely will include two short essays and a class presentation.  We may close the semester with a look at some contemporary scholarship chosen by students.  Primary readings will be drawn from the following list:

Marx, The German Ideology
Theodore Adorno, The Stars Down to Earth
Louis Althusser, from For Marx
Walter Benjamin, from Illuminations
Antonio Gramsci, from The Prison Notebooks
Raymond Williams, Culture and Society
Stuart Hall, et al., Policing the Crisis
Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, v.1
Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life
Jürgen Habermas, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere
Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy
Janice Radway, Reading the Romance
Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination
Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of
Transgression
Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics
Giorgio Agamben Homo Sacer
Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers
Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman

Further essays by Theodore Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, Stuart Hall,
Clifford Geertz, Matthew Arnold, Ferdinand de Saussure, Michael
Denning, Simon During, Frederic Jameson, and others.

Courses :: CULS C601 Topic: Introduction to Cultural Studies

In this introduction to cultural theory we will focus on the foundational texts and intellectual history of contemporary cultural studies. Beginning with the Frankfurt School’s turn toward cultural Marxism, we will proceed to the Birmingham Center for Cultural Studies’ incorporation of structuralism, and thence to the challenge of poststructuralism. We will then trace the legacy of this early history in the debate between post-Marxism and theories of the public sphere that informs many contemporary investigations of culture. As we follow the trajectory of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century breaks with Cartesian humanism to the anti- humanism of subsequent theories of subjectivity, we will ask how the latter have influenced analyses of popular and expressive cultural practices. How is culture defined and what is its relationship to economic and political structures? How are cultural meanings produced, circulated and consumed? What is the relationship between high, mass and popular cultural productions? How do cultural formations produce patterns of individuated subjectivity and social relationships, and how do we think about agency? With such questions to guide us, we will examine both the methods and the objects of cultural studies scholarship. Assignments likely will include two short essays and a class presentation. We may close the semester with a look at some contemporary scholarship chosen by students. Primary readings will be drawn from the following list: Marx, The German Ideology Theodore Adorno, The Culture Industry Louis Althusser, from For Marx Walter Benjamin, from Illuminations Antonio Gramsci, from The Prison Notebooks Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature Stuart Hall, et al., Policing the Crisis Michel Foucault, History of Sexuality, v.1 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life Jürgen Habermas, Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, Hegemony and Socialist Strategy Michael Warner, Publics and Counterpublics Giorgio Agamben State of Exception Arjun Appadurai, Fear of Small Numbers Further essays by Clifford Geertz, Matthew Arnold, Ferdinand de Saussure, and others.