Cultural Studies | Introduction to Cultural Studies
C601 | 12638 | Samantrai

5:45p – 8:30p R


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

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
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.