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Introduction to Cultural Studies

ENGL 095.001
instructor(s):
MWF 2

While "Cultural Studies" is a relatively new field within established academic discourse, the study of "culture," its value systems, and its power constructs has a long tradition. In the first half of the semester, we will explore various accounts of civilization, descriptive, prescriptive, and utopian ones that precede the work of Michel Foucault that has inaugurates Cultural Studies as it is now practiced. Questions to be asked from these accounts will include: how does a distinct culture emerge? What establishes its coherence? How is this coherence threatened? How are privilege and power assigned? How do models of culture accomodate or resist historical change? What fundamental assumptions underlie, openly or tacitly, both ancient and modern value constructions like justice, beauty, education, equality, tolerance, homogeneity or diversity? Can some or all or none of these texts help us to gain a viable critical perspective on contemporary issues and conflicts?

The second half of the semester will be devoted to various accounts and examples of contemporary Cultural Studies; topics to be adressed include feminisms; post-colonial studies; the various ways in which the academy has started to investigate, reevaluate, and challenge notions of popular culture; the emergence of an Internet culture; advertisement; multiculturalism and itsdiscontents.