English | Projects In Reading and Writing: Recycled Culture
W170 | 7530 | Nash

TOPIC: 		Recycled Culture

7530	TR		4:00pm-5:15pm		SY 0008
Without question, cultural recycling – appropriating, re-using, or,
as copyright laws might have it, stealing from our cultural and
symbolic past – is a defining feature of contemporary experience.
While there is nothing new about this tendency, our current capacity
to imitate, adapt, re-mix, simulate, plagiarize, and pirate has
never been greater, or more debated; we live in an environment where
technologies of reproduction make cultural products far more readily
recyclable than ever before, and where cultural producers and
consumers alike seem to prefer remakes of, or sequels to, hit
movies, novels, television shows, comics, and fashion trends. For a
number of critics, this extraordinary infiltration of recycled
culture marks a crisis of originality, authenticity, depth, memory,
and even meaning. Other critics, however, see re-use, re-production,
and re-purposing as vital forms of creativity and agency. With this
section of W170, then, we will take on these central questions: if
some cultural recycling is inevitable and necessary, then how do we
differentiate valuable, inventive, and legitimate modes of recycling
from lazy, cynical, boring, and even harmful ones? How do acts of
adapting, parodying, sampling, and even co-opting (like Duchamp
adding a beard and mustache to the Mona Lisa, Jay-Z sampling
from “Hard Knock Life,” or designers putting the image of Che
Guevara on everything from belt-buckles to beer bottles) complicate
notions of identity, value, and meaning? What does the boon
of ‘retro’ products and programs say about our relationship to
history and memory? Are forms of recycled culture a sign of cultural
exhaustion or, as with the recycling of raw materials, can they
generate new cultural ‘energy’ from the detritus of the past?

It is important to note that this is first and foremost a writing
course designed to fulfill the English Composition requirement. As
we explore the phenomenon of cultural recycling through a range of
critical sources, narratives, movies, and recent cultural products,
you will develop the analytical thinking, reading, and writing
skills necessary for success at IU and beyond. You will write a
series of analytical essays and finish the semester with an
independent research project on a topic of your design.