English | Special Topics in Literary Study & Theory
L680 | 7018 | Vogel

L680/C601  7018/6252  VOGEL (#6)
Special Topics in Literary Study & Theory
(Introduction to Cultural Studies)

4:00p – 5:15p TR

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.