Winter 2014 Course: Introduction to Cultural Analysis and Social Criticism

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Introduction to Cultural Analysis and Social Criticism

IPLS 410-0, Section 50, Winter 2014

University Hall 118, Evanston Campus

Mondays, 7-9:30pm

 

INSTRUCTOR

Dr. Michael J. Kramer

History & American Studies

Northwestern University

Contact: mjk@northwestern.edu

Office hours: By appointment, Evanston campus

COURSE DESCRIPTION

This course asks the question, “how do we picture culture and society?” and introduces students to multiple perspectives on cultural analysis and social criticism. Readings span topics such as history, politics, anthropology, sociology, visual studies, sound studies, aesthetics, Marxism, liberalism, conservatism, race, gender, ethnicity, globalization, imperialism, and cultural studies. The course features authors such as Marx, Gramsci, Foucault, Arendt, Mills, Barthes, Geertz, Habermas, Raymond Williams, Matthew Arnold, TS Eliot, Susan Sontag, Arjun Appadurai, and others. Intensive reading and discussion are at the heart of the course, along with weekly online blog posts of “connected criticism,” responses to posts by fellow students, and follow-up reflections.

REQUIRED BOOKS

Available at the Norris Bookstore, Evanston Campus. Students can also purchase books online at any bookseller website. Books are also on reserve at the Evanston library reserve desk for 1 day check out.

  • Daniel T. Rodgers, Age of Fracture (Harvard University Press, 2011).
  • Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1958; reprint, University of Chicago Press, 1998).
  • David Harvey, A Companion to Marx’s Capital (New York: Verso, 2010).
  • Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1979; reprint, New York: Hill and Wang, 2010).
  • Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson, eds., Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain (1976; reprint, New York: Routledge, 2012).
  • Christopher Shannon, Conspicuous Criticism: Tradition, the Individual, and Culture In Modern American Social Thought, Revised Edition (University of Scranton Press, 2007).
  • James Bau Graves, Cultural Democracy: The Arts, Community, and the Public Purpose (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005).
  • Robert O. Self, All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy Since the 1960s (New York: Hill and Wang, 2012).
  • Additional readings on course website. Log in with NetID and password at courses.northwestern.edu.

BLOG

We will be using a WordPress blog as the main arena for writing and conversation beyond our classroom meetings. The blog url is http://ipls410.culturalanalysis.northwestern.edu. Log in using your Northwestern Net ID and password at https://ipls410.culturalanalysis.northwestern.edu/wp-login.php.

WordPress is very simple blogging software. For basic instructions, see: http://codex.wordpress.org. But I suggest simply diving in and using it as WordPress is fairly intuitive. We will mostly be writing posts and adding comments. A number of you may wish to pursue more complex uses of WordPress, which you may do as well. Our blog is password protected but we may wish to make public certain posts. By enrolling in the course, you agree that it is acceptable to share your classroom work in this manner. If you have any concerns—technical, personal, ethical—about public uses of your course blog entries, please feel absolutely free to confer with your instructor to make arrangements. Generally, I advocate what has become known as “open access” in digital work, but there can be very important and worthy exceptions to this philosophy. If you are curious, here is more about the ethics of public blogs for classroom use: http://hastac.org/blogs/superadmin/2012/11/30/guidelines-public-student-class-blogs-ethics-legalities-ferpa-and-more.

SCHEDULE

WEEK 1                                        
Mon 1/6 Connecting to Cultural Analysis: What Is Culture, Anyway? READING:

·      Charles Lemert, “What Is Culture? Amid the flowers, seeds, or weeds?” in Durkheim’s Ghosts: Cultural Logics and Social Things (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 36-58.

Optional:

·      T.S. Eliot, “The Three Senses of ‘Culture,’” in Notes Toward the Definition of Culture (London: Faber and Faber, 1948), 21-34.

·      Matthew Arnold, “Sweetness and Light,” in Culture and Anarchy: An Essay in Political and Social Criticism (1867-9), republished in Arnold: Culture and Anarchy and Other Writings, ed. Stefan Collini (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 58-80.

WEEK 2
Sun 1/12, midnight. Blog 1 due.
Mon 1/13 Synthesizing an Argument & Beginning to Think about Method READING:

·      Daniel T. Rodgers, Age of Fracture (Harvard University Press, 2011).

·      C. Wright Mills, “On Intellectual Craftsmanship,” Appendix to The Sociological Imagination (New York: Oxford University Press, 1959).

·      Vernlyn Klinkenborg, “Where Do Sentences Come From?,” New York Times, 13 August 2012.

Wed 1/14 Blog comment due.
WEEK 3  
Sun 1/19, midnight. Blog 2 due. Blog 1 followup due. Sun 1/19, midnight.
Mon 1/20 The Human Condition and the Public Sphere READING:

·   Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1958; reprint, University of Chicago Press, 1998).

Optional:

·   Jurgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” New German Critique, 3 (1974), 49-55.

Wed 1/22, midnight. Blog comment due.
WEEK 4  
Sun 1/26, midnight. Blog 3 due. Blog 2 followup due.
Mon 1/27 Context and Critique READING:

·   Clifford Geertz, “Ch. 1: Thick Description: Toward an Interpretive Theory of Culture,” “Ch. 8, Ideology as a Cultural System,” and “Ch. 15 , Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight,” in The Interpretation of Cultures (1973; reprint, New York: Basic Books, 2000).

·   Michel Foucault, “What is Enlightenment?” (“Qu’est-ce que les Lumières ?”), in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (New York, Pantheon Books, 1984), 32-50.

·   Bruno Latour, “Why Has Critique Run Out? From Matter of Fact to Matter of Concern,” Critical Inquiry 30 (2004), 225–48.

Wed 1/29, midnight. Bog comment due.
WEEK 5  
Sun 2/2, midnight. Blog 4 due. Blog 3 followup due.
Mon 2/3 X Marx the Spot READING:

·      David Harvey, A Companion to Marx’s Capital (New York: Verso, 2010).

·      Browse Karl Marx, Capital, http://davidharvey.org/help-finding-the-text/.

Optional:

·      Karl Marx, “Introduction,” A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1843), http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htm.

Wed 2/5 Blog comment due.
WEEK 6  
Sun 2/9, midnight. Blog 5 due. Blog 4 followup due.
Mon, 2/10 Thinking Through Mediation READING:

·      Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1979; reprint, New York: Hill and Wang, 2010).

·      Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936),” in Illuminations: Essays and Reflections, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken Books, 1968), 217-251.

Optional:

·      Susan Sontag, “Against Interpretation,” in Against Interpretation and Other Essays (1966; reprint, New York: Picador, 2001), 3-14.

·      Arjun Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” Public Culture 2, 2 (Spring 1990), 1-24.

Wed 2/12, midnight. Blog comment due.
WEEK 7  
Sun 2/16, midnight. Blog 6 due. Blog 5 followup due.
Mon 2/17 Mass Culture Analyzed READING:

·      Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson, eds., Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain (1976; reprint, New York: Routledge, 2012).

·   Hannah Arendt, “The Crisis in Culture: Its Social and Its Political Significance,” Between Past and Future (1961; reprint, New York: Penguin, 1993), 197-226.

Optional:

·   Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” in Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments (1947; reprint, Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2002), 94-136

·   Clement Greenberg, “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” Partisan Review 6, 5 (Fall 1939): 34-49.

·      Dwight Macdonald, “Masscult and Midcult,” in Masscult and Midcult: Essays Against the American Grain, ed. John Summers (New York: New York Review Book, 2011), 3-71, originally published in Partisan Review 27(Spring 1960): 203-233.

Wed 2/19, midnight. Blog comment due.
WEEK 8  
Sun 2/23, midnight. Blog 7 due. Blog 6 followup due.
Mon 2/24 A Traditionalist Conservative’s Critique of Critique READING:

·   Christopher Shannon, Conspicuous Criticism: Tradition, the Individual, and Culture In Modern American Social Thought, Revised Edition (University of Scranton Press, 2007).

Wed 2/26 Blog comment due.
WEEK 9  
Sun 3/2, midnight. Blog 8 due. Blog 7 followup due.
Mon 3/3 Cultural Democracy / There’s No Accounting for Taste READING:

·      James Bau Graves, Cultural Democracy: The Arts, Community, and the Public Purpose (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005).

·     Pierre Bourdieu, Introduction to Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), 1-7.

Optional:

·   Mark Greif, “The Hipster in the Mirror,” New York Times, 12 November 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/books/review/Greif-t.html

·   Christy Wampole, “How to Live Without Irony,” New York Times, 17 November 2012, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/17/how-to-live-without-irony/

Wed 3/5, midnight. Blog comment due.
WEEK 10  
Sun 3/9, midnight. Blog 9 due. Blog 8 followup due.
Mon 3/10 Family Values: Race, Gender, Sex, Class and Other Categories of Cultural and Social Analysis READING:

·      Robert O. Self, All in the Family: The Realignment of American Democracy Since the 1960s (New York: Hill and Wang, 2012).

Sun 3/16, midnight. Blog comment due.  

 

FINAL
Fri, 3/21, midnight. Final blog assignment: course reflections, blog analysis, MALS thesis prospectus.

ASSIGNMENTS

Attendance and Participation: 25%

Attendance is mandatory. Participation involves contributing to class discussions by articulating your own perspective on the material and responding to fellow students with empathy and engagement. Though the instructor is sympathetic to the demands placed on students, he reserves the right to not give a passing grade to students who miss multiple classes. Please stay in contact with the instructor concerning any missed class meetings.

Blog posts, responses, follow up reflections: 55%

9 posts X 3% each = 27%

Comments = 14%

Followups = 14%

Each week, post a clearly written and compelling reflection on the week’s readings. Your post should be entered on our WordPress course blog: log on using your netid and password at https://ipls410.culturalanalysis.northwestern.edu/wp-login.php.

Your post must include the following format and parts:

(1)  CONNECTED CRITICISM: In one to four paragraphs, analyze a specific aspect of the week’s readings to something in the contemporary world: it can be something in your personal life, in world events, in contemporary culture, in connection to other readings and discussions in our course, or some other relevant topic. Be specific, use evidence to support your claims, and make appropriate citations (and add links if you wish) to develop an argument or interpretation from your materials.

(2)   QUOTATION OF THE WEEK: One quotation from the texts, not more than one paragraph long.

(3)  KEYWORD TAGS: What are the key terms that you noticed in the readings? Select at least two keywords from the week’s readings. Post them at the bottom of your blog post and add them to the “post tags” section of your website.

(4)  COMMENTS: Make at least one comment on another student’s blog post. Your task is to be civil, supportive, and constructive, to ask questions and request clarifications, to voice agreement or disagreement in the spirit of both individual and collective inquiry.

(5)   FOLLOW UP: Short reflection on the your post and any comments made on it one week later. You may include new ideas and thoughts from more recent readings. Post as an additional comment on your original blog post.

Final blog post: 20%

Your final blog post should be a longer interpretative reflection on the course readings. What stand out to you as the most important themes for your own understanding of cultural analysis and social criticism? Why? How do the readings relate to each other? Use specific evidence, develop a comparison of a number of the readings that were most significant to you, and prepare a final post that analyzes themes in the course through specific engagement with the materials we have covered. Your post should also use the Voyant Text Analysis tool (http://voyeurtools.org) as a heuristic for thinking about themes in your blog posts. You might incorporate multimedia materials or a reading of a particular cultural object, event, figure, or text as part of your final post. Focus on something that interests you and about which you wish to spend a bit more time thinking and writing.

Your final project should be a “long form” essay of approximately 2500-5000 words. It should have a clear thesis or argument, an opening “hook” in the introduction, well-phrased topic sentences, clear transitions between paragraphs, and a compelling conclusion. The essay should be well written in graceful, precise, and convincing prose. Most of all it should move from specific evidence to description of that evidence and from there to analysis of why this evidence matters for your larger argument. Argument, evidence, organization, and clarity of prose are the main categories by which I will evaluate your final blog post.

For those of you who are pursuing an MALS Capstone Thesis, you might also use your final post as a place to develop a project prospectus. See instructions on the course website for this if it is something you wish to do.

WRITING CENTER

“Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” So said someone witty, possibly Frank Zappa. Of course, if you stop to think about it, dancing is exactly what one should do “about” architecture since architecture is mostly about spatial relations and so is dancing. To aid you in the improvement of your expository and analytic writing abilities (but perhaps not your dancing abilities), Northwestern has extensive support for writing at THE WRITING PLACE, which has locations on both the Evanston and Chicago campuses. Make use of these excellent resources! 

Evanston

The Writing Place on the Evanston campus is a peer tutoring center where

consultants help students at any stage of the writing process, from talking about

ideas to developing a plan to preparing a final copy.

The Writing Place

University Library

Room 2304

North Tower, Second Floor

1970 Campus Drive

Evanston, Illinois 60208

847-467-2791

www.writing.northwestern.edu

Chicago

The Writing Place in Schaffner Library in the Chicago offers free tutorial services

of a writing consultant hired by SCS to work with students.

The Writing Place

Joseph Schaffner Library

Wieboldt Hall, Second Floor

339 East Chicago Avenue

Chicago, Illinois 60611

312-503-8422

www.writing.northwestern.edu

ACADEMIC INTEGRITY

All Northwestern policies concerning plagiarism and academic dishonesty are enforced in this course. See http://www.scs.northwestern.edu/student/issues/academic_integrity.cfm and http://www.northwestern.edu/uacc/ for University policies on academic integrity.  If you have any question as to what constitutes plagiarism or academic dishonesty, please contact the instructor. Please note that under Northwestern policy, the instructor is required to report any instances of academic dishonesty. The instructor also reserves the right to assign a failing grade for the course if a student is found to have violated university policy concerning academic integrity. In other words, don’t cheat!

SPECIAL NEEDS

Students with special needs and disabilities that have been declared and documented through the Northwestern Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) should meet with the instructor to discuss any specific accommodations. For further information, see the Office of  Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) website: http://www.northwestern.edu/disability.

*Cartoon By Bruce Eric Kaplan, published in The New Yorker, 15 May 2006

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