English | Projects In Reading and Writing: The Loser
W170 | 16414 | Lewis


16414     MWF    1:25p - 2:15p    SY 002     Michael Lewis

TOPIC: The Loser: Cultural Representations of Failing, Slacking,
Falling Short, and Sticking Out

The popularity of the term "loser" as a cultural catch-all for the
unsuccessful, the misfit, the out-of-fashion, and even the unpopular
has grown in recent years to encompass diverse "losers" from film
and television, such as the title character of Napoleon Dynamite,
Homer Simpson, David Brent from the BBC's The Office, and almost
every character in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Via the
internet, and its variety of blogs, tubes, and tweets, we now have
access to a minute-by-minute account of failures, missteps and
snafus. Whereas traditional presentations of "losers" tend toward
the negative, some current textual representations of losers have
complicated the "hopelessness" of the loser and led to critical
reflection on the potential coolness of those who lose--giving rise
to discussion of "geek chic" and hipness of "slacking." Both
engaging with this current argument surrounding the meaning of the
category "loser," but also tracing a history of "losers" in American
culture, this course will investigate the ways in which the concept
of "loser" is used by different texts in order to convey a wide
variety of ideas that bear on larger cultural issues of inclusion
and exclusion, success and failure, valuable and useless interests,
and appearance and identity. Through an analysis of cultural
figures, articles and editorials, blogs and websites, films,
television shows, and short fiction, we will develop and practice
the habits of critical reading and writing and apply those skills in
our investigation of how texts differently depict "losers," why such
depictions arise when and where they do, how they relate to or
challenge other depictions of losers, and what they suggest about
the cultural assumptions and values affecting representations of the
relationship between readers and "losers."