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ENGL 7800: Introduction to Cultural Studies
Spring 2020

Dr. Paula R. Backscheider
9082 Haley Center
(334) 844-9091

Course Description:
In the last twenty years, Cultural Studies approaches have come to be the dominant methodology for publications in English studies. The seminar will work through formative theoretical books and articles and survey some of the Cultural Studies concentrations that are now mature enough to be considered fields in their own right. From its beginning, Cultural Studies was interdisciplinary and it is deeply so today. Its roots are in cultural anthropology, social history, popular culture, exegesis, sexuality studies, economics, and identity politics.

This introduction to the major theories and methods of Cultural Studies will have a feminist slant and conclude with an emphasis on new and cutting edge inquiries. Those special topics are "The Place of Popular Culture in Nationalistic Propaganda" and "Gender Geography." This is a seminar and consistent, active participation is expected. It is important to remember that the Cultural Studies critic begins by exploring and analyzing. Neutrality and "fresh eyes," not dogmatic and judgmental perspectives, are the constitutive qualities and expected of a Cultural Studies critic. Cultural Studies asks, "What is culture?" "How is a culture created and maintained?" In studying events, questions include "What in the culture gave rise to this action?" "What other cultures existed and became visible because of it?"

Readings will include American and British novels, plays, and theoretical readings over a broad span of time. Some assignments will allow seminar members to apply methodologies to their own special interests.

Requirements: Short oral and written reports and presentations, a seminar paper in which an act of Cultural Studies is committed.

Required Books:

M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1982).

Bertolt Brecht, Galileo, ed. Eric Bentley, trans. Charles Laughton (New York: Grove/ Atlantic, 1994).

Peter Brooker, Glossary of Literary and Cultural Theory, 3rd ed. (New York: Routledge, 2016).

Kate Chopin, The Awakening, ed. Nancy A. Walker, 2nd ed. (New York: Bedford/ St. Martin's, 1999).

Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer (Mineola: Dover Publications, 1991).

Henry James, The Bostonians, ed. R. D. Gooder (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Charlotte Lennox, Euphemia, ed. Susan Kubica Howard (Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2008).

Linda McDowell, Gender, Identity and Place: Understanding Feminist Geographies (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999).


---Each word tastes of the context and contexts in which it has lived its socially charged life. ---Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, 293.


14: Introduction to Methods of Analyzing Culture. Raymond Williams, "The Analysis of Culture" from The Long Revolution, pp. 41-71; Ch. 15 of Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures, pp. 412-53.

21: Stuart Hall, "Culture, Community, Nation" from Representing the Nation and Samuel Johnson, "Preface" to the Dictionary.

28: Amanda Flather, "Space, Place, and Gender," History and Theory, 52 (2013): 344-60; + Linda McDowell, Gender, Identity, and Place, "Introduction," pp. 1-32; + Kate Chopin, The Awakening.

---Endless complication in the interest of simplicity. ---Clifford Geertz


4: + Oliver Goldsmith, She Stoops to Conquer; Stuart Hall, "Reading an Ideological Field" from "Signification, Representation, Ideology," pp. 97-8, 107-14; Daniel Coyle, The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, pp. xv-xx, 27-36.

11: Fredric Jameson, "Metacommentary" and applied to The Awakening and She Stoops to Conquer; Oral and Written Presentations of Cultural Documents Parallel to Johnson's "Preface."

18: Clifford Geertz, "Centers, Kings, and Charisma" from Culture and Its Creators, ed. Joseph Ben-David and Terry Nichols Clark; Rudolph Arnheim, "Centers as Hubs" from The Power of the Center.

---The idea of testing the hero is the testing of his discourse. ---Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination

25: + Henry James, The Bostonians; Erving Goffman, "Performances: Belief in the Part One is Playing" from The Performance Studies Reader, 2nd ed., pp. 61-65; + McDowell, "Domestic Labour and Capitalism," pp. 81-2; "Counting (and Paying for) women's domestic work?" pp. 82-3; "Home as Haven and/or Prison," pp. 88-9; and "Conclusion: The Meaning of Home," pp. 92-4, from Gender, Identity, and Place.


3: + Bostonians continued.

Spring break

17: Glenn Jordan and Chris Weedon, "When the Subaltern Speaks, What Do They Say?" from Without Guarantees: in Honour of Stuart Hall, ed. Paul Gilroy, Lawrence Grossberg, and Angela McRobbie. Reports on sub-genres of Cultural Studies.

24: Londa Schiebinger, "Skeletons in the Closet: The First Illustrations of the Female Skeleton" from The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the 19th Century, ed. Catherine Gallagher and Thomas Laqueur. Read two of the following essays and analyze how they "commit an act of Cultural Studies": Elizabeth Bohls, "A Long Way from Home: Slavery, Travel, and Imperial Geography" from Slavery and the Politics of Place; Jason Shaffer, "'Great Cato's Descendants': A Genealogy of Colonial Performance," Theatre Journal 44.1 (2003): 5-28; Backscheider, "Migraines, Melancholy, and a Poet's Desire" from Eighteenth-Century Women Poets and Their Poetry; + Margit Strange, "Personal Property: Exchange Value and the Female Self in The Awakening," from your required textbook for Chopin, The Awakening. Discussion of Paper Topics.

---The idea of trial organizes the material throughout, at a deep and sustained level. ---Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination

31: + Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, essays 2 and 4.


7: + Charlotte Lennox, Euphemia; + McDowell, "Community, City and Locality," Chapter 4 of Gender, Identity, and Place, pp. 96-108, 117-22.

14: + Euphemia continued.

21: + Bertolt Brecht, Galileo; + Euphemia, continued.

Papers Due: 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28.

+ Book to purchase

All other readings are on Canvas