Communication and Culture | Using Popular Culture
C336 | 11470 | Simons, J.

TuTh, 9:30 AM-10:45 AM, C2 203

Fulfills College S&H Requirement

Instructor: Jon Simons
Office: C2 239
Phone: 856-0896

The course examines the extent to which contemporary public,
political culture is dominated by the forms of popular culture. In
particular, is the sort of popularity demanded in politics, for
candidates, policies and ideas, akin to the sort of popularity
sought in popular culture? At stake in this question is whether
perceived shortcomings in popular culture (as commercialized and
commodified, trivial, dumb-downed, sensationalist, seductive)
undermine the scope and quality of democratic discourse and
politics. Popular culture is characterized in relation to
contemporary mediated and commercialised forms, in culture and
entertainment industries. The key questions posed are the extent to
which democratic political culture is governed by the norms and
practices of popular culture (in informal political settings as well
as electioneering), and whether (and as a consequence) democratic
politics is undermined by cultural populism.

If politics and popular culture are inevitably entwined, how should
we judge both political and popular cultural phenomena? Should
politics be as entertaining or pleasurable as popular culture?
Should popular culture expect as much of us as democratic
deliberation is supposed to do? The class will make special
reference to the recent presidential election campaign, especially
in research paper/projects, to think through these issues in
relation to academic literature that defines attitudes about popular
culture, politics and the proper relationship between them.

•	Students will learn to analyze both the political
ramifications of popular culture and the cultural forms of political
•	Required reading for the course is: John Street, Politics
and Popular Culture (1997). Additional readings will be selected
from a range of cultural commentators and will be available
•	Course will be conducted as a combination of lectures and
class activities, including role plays and simulation games as well
as discussions.
•	We’ll be talking about American Idol, popular music,
campaign advertising and politics.

Assignment - % of final grade
“Show and tell”	10%
Mid-class test	20%
Reflections on simulation game 10%
Research paper or project 30%
Final exam 30%