Cultural Studies | Introduction to Cultural Studies: Critiques of Everyday Life
C601 | 6252 | Vogel


This introduction to the interdisciplinary field and methods of
cultural studies will be focused by an investigation into the
quotidian and unrarefied domain of everyday life. Cultural critic
Raymond Williams notes three different senses of the word “culture” in
contemporary use: (1) a general process of intellectual, spiritual,
and aesthetic development; (2) a particular way of life, whether of a
people, a period, a group, or humanity in general; and (3) the works
and practices on intellectual and especially artistic activity. In
this course we will explore the ways in which these three senses of
“culture” are braided together, following first one, than another of
these threads as we pursue the relationship between material cultural
production and symbolic systems of meaning. Specifically, we will move
between a specialized notion of late-capitalist popular culture, on
the one hand, and an anthropological notion of a whole way of life, on
the other. Indeed, one of the questions that this course will pursue
is whether or not these two domains have more in common than is
usually assumed, or even if the distinction can be maintained at all
in a world shaped by transnational and global capital.

Our exploration into these questions will be focused by the notion of
the everyday. Examining the terms and principles by which “culture”
has been constituted as a realm of academic study and critique, we
will ask what humanistic and social scientific academic study can—and
cannot—tell us about the material and psychic domain of the everyday.
The everyday is that largely taken-for-granted world where culture is
lived, a sphere where agency and subjection exist in dialectical
tension, where transnational flows of capital, commodities, and signs
shape the ways in which people come to know and express themselves and
their worlds. As the realm where culture is consumed, the everyday is
where official knowledge confronts practical and unofficial knowledge,
putting various theories to the test. By focusing our inquiry at the
interface of “culture” and the “everyday” we will investigate the
myriad ways that the everyday is constituted, managed, and
administered, and subsequently how it is reimagined, remapped, and
reinhabited. We will likely read work by Richard Hoggart, Raymond
Williams, Michael Denning, Stuart Hall, Theodor Adorno, Walter
Benjamin, Antonio Gramsci, Karl Marx, Lauren Berlant, Laura Kipnis,
Veena Das, Michel de Certeau, Louis Althusser, Roland Barthes, Anna
Tsing, Kathleen Stewart, Robin Kelley, James Scott, Lisa Lowe, and
Paul Gilory.

Reading in this course will be heavy (usually a book a week, sometimes
more) and often dense; however, no prior knowledge of critical theory
or cultural studies is required or expected. Writing assignments will
be somewhat lighter, combing informal responses papers with a longer
final paper. Class will be a combination of discussion, lecture, and
student presentations. This course is joint-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 students.