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Popular Culture Overview

2014
by

Paul Bowman

on 22 September 2014

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Transcript of Popular Culture Overview

Popular Culture
Module overview
This module focuses on some of the major themes and topics in the realms of popular culture. It introduces students to the most common examples and forms of what is taken to be popular culture, and examines the film, media, journalistic, political and academic debates associated with these examples. The module introduces students to the forms and developments of common debates, and develops students’ knowledge of the specific contributions of media and cultural studies scholarship in these areas. In doing so, the module equips students with a developed awareness of popular cultural debates and the specificity of cultural studies orientations to popular culture.

Week 1 – Is Popular Culture Popular?

Week 2 – Is Popular Culture Stupid?

Week 3 – Is Popular Culture Meaningful?

Week 4 – Is Popular Culture Chosen, or Imposed?

Week 5 – Film Screening (tbc)

Week 6 – Is Popular Culture Political?

Week 7 – Is Popular Culture Sexist?

Week 8 – Is Popular Culture Racist?

Week 9 – Is Popular Culture separate from our bodies?

Week 10 – Is Popular Culture National?

Week 11 – Is Popular Culture Translatable?
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 11
The module commences with introductions, a module overview, an explanation of what is expected of you, information about forms of assessment, timetable, etc.; and then an introduction to some of the key questions that will occupy us throughout the module. To begin, this week we will pose the question of cultural value: what is to be valued and why? The answer to this question requires (and implies) an answer to the question of ‘what is culture?’ This is a very long-running debate. We shall look at the way some time-worn debates can still be seen to be raging in contemporary culture, by examining the question of cultural value in popular (and unpopular) culture.
Is popular
Culture
popular?
Is Popular Culture Stupid?
This week we will look at the various ways in which popular music has worked as an important cultural and even political force. Subcultural movements have often been organised by music; various forms of music have often been decried and denounced by both philosophers and cultural commentators of all stripes. So this week we will look at the structures of these sorts of debates, responses to and uses of popular music in order to gain insights into the stakes and significances of music and popular culture.
Assessment...
This week we look at how values and meanings are made: How does something mean anything? How is meaning made or transformed? This week focuses on the significance of the approaches of semiotics (the ‘science of signs’) for the study of how meanings are produced, circulate and change. It looks specifically at the ideological and propagandist uses of signifying practices, but also differentiates between propaganda and ideology in a more cultural sense. The key figures discussed will be the works of Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes and Stuart Hall.
Is Popular Culture Meaningful?
Is Popular Culture
Chosen, or imposed?
One of the first approaches to the notion of subcultures was broadly derived from semiotics. The study of meaning-making systems was combined with approaches from sociology and ethnography in order to produce the notion and the study of ‘subcultures’. This week we look at this ground-breaking work in cultural studies and consider its importance and limitations as well as looking at the development of approaches to the question of cultural identity that have taken place since the development of the notion of subculture.
Film Screening
This week we have left open and flexible in order to decide what to do based on student opinion. For instance, there may be a film screening during the lecture slot and/or slightly different sorts of activities during the seminars. Such seminar activities might be essay planning and preparation workshops, for instance – yes, week 5 is a very good time to start thinking about and working on your essay! But these matters will all be discussed and decided by week 4. Check Learning Central and your university email for updates and information.
Is Popular Culture
Political?
This week we turn to the question of cultural politics by looking into the various forms of popular counter-culture. We look at some key coordinates of the formation of countercultural ideologies and outlooks. This is a hotly contested issue: is counter-culture ever political? Does it ever make any real difference? If so, to what? How? Are there still counter-cultures? Have there ever been? ‘Counter’ to what? Why? And with what consequences? We will read and discuss Heath and Potter’s argument about countercultures in The Rebel Sell: How the Counter Culture Became Consumer Culture – a book which is very critical of the ideas and claims about counter-culture.
Is Popular Culture Sexist?
This week we explore the proposition that popular culture is sexist. We look at examples of gendered representations and interrogate such key concepts sexism, patriarchy, misogyny and the theoretical concept of phallocentricity. Examples will mainly be drawn from the field of music videos.
Is Popular Culture Racist?
This week we explore popular representation in terms of its racial biases. We examine the ways that ethnicity functions as a marker of difference in different ways, depending on time and place, and consider the cultural, ethical and political implications of this.
Is Popular Culture Separate from
our bodies?
Are our bodies inside or outside of culture? On the one hand, they are what seems most natural, but on the other hand, they are constantly worked upon and worked over by cultural processes – rules, habits, law, diet, education, training, discipline, design, attire, desire, fantasy, values, aspirations, procedures, judgements, and so on. This week we examine some of the ways that culture works on the body, by looking at the work of Michel Foucault and Foucault-inspired scholarship. We connect such historical work with ongoing processes in popular culture and our everyday lives.
Is Popular Culture National?
Is popular culture tied to nationality? What might this mean, and how might it happen? What ramifications does it have? This week we will explore the status of the nation in relation to culture and popular culture. This is because the hold of nationalism over our thought processes is remarkably tenacious, even though we often think we live in a global, international or transnational world.
Is popular culture translatable?
Is a product or practice of popular culture the same thing everywhere? What happens when popular cultural texts and practices travel? What do they become? Is something the same in every context? This week we ask the question of whether texts and practices are ‘translatable’, and what happens when popular cultural texts and practices travel and ‘translate’ – or if they do at all.
1. Essay
2. Exam
Essay: 2,000 words = 50%
Due: Week 12 (8th January) 4pm

NB: word count does not include bibliography. Do not count bibliography.

Exam During Jan/Feb Exam Period = 50%
Paul Bowman
MC3577 - Popular Culture
Cardiff University
Weekly reading
You must do the weekly reading.

Non-participation or ignorance of the required reading can be as bad for seminar groups as deliberate disruption.

Tutors can exclude from seminars students who do not prepare.

• Check Learning Central regularly for updates, notes, announcements and extras.

1. Attendance at lectures and seminars is required.
2. If you miss weeks your exam grade is likely to suffer.
3. If you miss too many weeks you are likely to fail the module.
4. Reading and preparation for the lectures and seminars is required.
5. If you do not do the reading, you will not understand the lectures and seminars.
6. If you do not do the reading, your essay and exam grades will definitely suffer.
7. You will be examined questions related to the lectures, seminars and weekly reading.
8. If you have not done the reading for each week, you will be highly likely to fail the exam.

Key Points to Bear in Mind if you want to do well:
1. If you may miss a lecture or seminar: let the lecturer or tutor know and try to arrange for someone else to take notes that you can borrow.

2. If you have personal problems or illness that may interfere with your work, let the lecturers, tutors, and the head of the BA (John Jewell) know.

3. Keep evidence of problems: if unwell, ask for a doctor’s note, etc.

4. Do not let things build up. Try to tackle problems as soon as possible, and let your tutor and lecturers know if things may be causing problems for your academic work.

5. Your lecturers, tutors, JOMEC and the University want to help you to do well. The university has counselling and advice services. Don’t suffer in silence.

What do to if you have problems
Full transcript