Communication and Culture | Studies in Contemporary Communication (Topic: Introduction to Cultural Studies)
C626 | 26581 | Striphas, T.

M, 9:30 AM-12:00 PM, Location: TBA

Meets with CULS-C 601
Course fulfills requirement for Ph.D. minor in Cultural Studies
Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Ted Striphas
Office: Mottier Hall 214
Phone: 856-7868

The prospect of [introducing] cultural studies is a daunting task
(or, at least, it should be).
– J. Macgregor Wise, “Cultural Studies in Words and Pictures”

This course introduces you to cultural studies, a diverse
intellectual formation committed broadly to producing theoretically
informed and politically engaged scholarship.  Because cultural
studies tends to shift in relation to specific geo-historical
conditions, intellectual problems, and political concerns, many who
are new to the field (and even some veterans, for that matter) find
it difficult to pin down.  Indeed the question, “What is cultural
studies?” has been posed countless times, yet rarely has it yielded
satisfying or enduring answers.  There’s something about cultural
studies that seems to resist definitional closure, which indeed
makes the task of introducing the field, as J. Macgregor Wise
observes, “daunting” for all involved.

Rather than trying to settle once and for all what cultural studies
is, this course embraces the field’s elusiveness by stressing its
ongoing reconstitution in practice. Thus, “What does cultural
studies do?” will be our organizing motif.  What’s so important
about this question is that it enjoins us to take stock of specific
formations of cultural studies while remaining sensitive to its
larger project.  It also encourages us to widen our frame of
reference so as to encompass the signifying systems, material
coordinates, and historical conjunctures out of which particular
cultural studies practices have emerged.

This is a course not only about cultural studies (its theories,
methods, key figures, debates, etc.), therefore, but also about the
field’s conditions of possibility.  It proceeds primarily through a
close reading and detailed discussion of primary works by scholars
who’ve been at the forefront of inventing—and reinventing—cultural
studies practice, with an eye towards situating their writings in
determinate contexts.  The reading list likely will include
selections from Louis Althusser, Ien Ang, Tony Bennett, Homi Bhabha,
Charlotte Brunsdon, Judith Butler, James Carey, Kuan-Hsing Chen,
John Clarke, Rosalind Coward, Michel Foucault, John Fiske, Jenny
Garber, Paul Gilroy, Antonio Gramsci, Lawrence Grossberg, Stuart
Hall, Dick Hebdige, Richard Hoggart, Toby Miller, Meaghan Morris,
Angela McRobbie, Janice A. Radway, Edward Said, Jennifer Daryl
Slack, Carolyn Steedman, E.P. Thompson, and Raymond Williams, among
possible others.

Although this class ostensibly is about cultural studies, it is, in
the end, really about the urgency of developing rigorous
intellectual work that can help us to respond more effectively to
the numerous political challenges—neoliberalism, neo-conservatism,
and globalization, to name only a few—of our time.  Otherwise, to
tell you the truth, we shouldn’t care less about cultural studies,
what it is, and what it does or doesn’t do.