Henry Jenkins (email@example.com), Literature Section, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02138.
Session #2 CULTURAL HIERARCHY: THE CASE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
Overview: Distinctions between high and low culture have proven surprisingly fluid, open to constant shifts. This has led to the study of the process by which cultural distinctions get made rather than attempts to map high and low as fixed categories. Lawrence Levine's work on Shakespeare is a vivid example of this kind of research. We will discuss Levine's essay and then look at some attempts within popular culture (Mad magazine, Star Trek, Ozzie and Harriet) to tap into our contemporary understanding of the Bard.
Lawrence Levine, "William Shakespeare in America," in Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988).
"William Shakespeare...At the Post Office," Mad, Summer 1991.
Session #3 CULTURAL HIERARCHY: 60s TELEVISION AND THE VAST WASTELAND
Overview: 1960s American television represents another place where cultural hierarchies were constructed and policed. Newton Minnow's speech provided the terms by which critics and historians have tended to discuss this period, which marked a transition within the economic structure and aesthetic practices of broadcasting. Spigel invites a reassessment of 60s programming. We will consider these conflicting aesthetic claims and look at clips from some 60s sitcoms. Bringing these issues up to date, Brower's essay focuses on the more recent efforts by a viewer activist group to define and promote "quality television."
Newton Minnow, "The Vast Wasteland." May 9 1961.
Lynn Spigel, "From Domestic Space to Outer Space: The 1960s Fantastic Family Sit-Com." in Constance Penley, Elisabeth Lyon, Lynn Spigel and Janet Bergstrom (Eds.), Close Encounters: Film, Feminism and Science Fiction (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).
Sue Brower, "Fans as Tastemakers: Viewers for Quality Television," in Lisa A. Lewis (Ed.), The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media (New York: Routledge, 1992).
Session #5 CULTURAL DISTINCTION
Overview: The work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu has been widely influential. Bourdieu links taste distinctions to a larger class distinctions. Bourdieu introduces the concept of cultural capital as well as providing tools for understanding conflicts between taste groups. Bourdieu's key essay, "The Aristocracy of Culture" is included here, though it is tough plowing. The Seiter, Fiske and Radway readings represent various applications of Bourdieu's concepts to the study of children's toys, game shows and the Book-of-the-Month Club. You may find it easier to read one or more of the recommended readings first and then return to the Bourdieu once you have a grasp of his basic ideas.
Pierre Bourdieu, "The Aristocracy of Culture," in Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984).
Ellen Seiter, "Toys Are Us: Marketing to Children and Parents," Cultural Studies, May 1992.
John Fiske, "The Discourses of TV Quiz Shows Or, School + Luck = Success + Sex," Central States Speech Journal, Fall 1983.
Janice Radway, "Mail-Order Culture and Its Critics: The Book-of-the-Month Club, Commodification and Consumption, and the Problem of Cultural Authority," in Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson and Paula Treichler, Cultural Studies (New York: Routledge, 1991).
Session #6 SUBCULTURES
Overview: A key aspect of the early work of the Birmingham group centered on the concept of youth cultures or subcultures. The O'Sullivan and McRobbie readings provide a summary of this work and the issues it poses. This discussion will use the concept of subculture to talk about aspects of contemporary black subcultural experience (hair styles, rap music, snapping, and voguing). We will also screen and discuss Tongues Untied, a controversial documentary about black gay culture.
"Subculture," in O'Sullivan Et Al. op. cit.
Angela McRobbie, "Settling Accounts With Subcultures: A Feminist Critique," in Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin (Eds.), On the Record:Rock, Pop and the Written Word (New York: Pantheon, 1990).
Kobena Mercer, "Black Hair/Style Politics," in Russell Ferguson, Martha Gever, Trinh T. Minh-ha and Cornel West (Eds.), Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Culture (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1990).
George Lipsitz, "Mardi Gras Indians: Carnival and Counter-Narrative in Black New Orleans," Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990).
Day 2 IDEOLOGY
Session 1: NEWS AND IDEOLOGY
Overview: Turner and O'Sullivan Et. Al. summarize basic models used within the Cultural Studies tradition to discuss ideology. This discussion will review those concepts and will apply them to a discussion of news coverage of the Gulf War by both the mainstream (CNN) and the oppositional media (Paper Tiger Television).
Other sessions today will employ the concept of ideology to discuss various other forms of popular culture, with particular attention to issues of gender and sexual identity.
Graeme Turner, "Ideology," from British Cultural Studies: An Introduction (Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1990).
"Bardic Function," "Discourse," "Hegemony," "Ideology" and "News Values" from O'Sullivan Et. Al., Op. Cit.
Session #2: GENDER AND GENERATION
Overview: Angela McRobbie has been a leading figure in a British effort to understand how we acquire conceptions of gender, looking specifically at teenage girl's culture. This discussion will focus on one of her central essays. Students are encouraged to acquire an issue of Sassy, Tiger Beat, or another contemporary teen magazine to use in comparison with her essay on British youth-centered publications. I have included some sample articles from Jackie to assist in your understanding of McRobbie.
Angela McRobbie, "Jackie: An Ideology of Adolescent Femininity," in Bernard Waites, Tony Bennett and Graham Martin (Eds.), Popular Culture: Past and Present (London: Open University, 1982).
Session #3: ROCK MUSIC AND FEMININE IDENTITY
Overview: This session will build upon the work of McRobbie to discuss recent work that reconsiders the role of rock music in the social construction of feminine identity. Lewis offers a case study of the music videos of Madonna and Cindi Lauper; Ehrenreich et. al. offer a historical reconsideration of the female fans of the Beatles. We will look closely at several music videos during this session as well as view a section of Dream Worlds, a documentary that offers a critique of MTV from a feminist perspective.
Lisa Lewis, "Consumer Girl Culture: How Music Video Appeals to Women," OneTwoThreeFour: A Rock and Roll Quarterly, Spring 1987.
Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess and Gloria Jacobs, "Beatlemania: Girls Just Want To Have Fun," in Lisa Lewis (Ed.), The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media (New York: Routledge, 1992).
Session #4: THE PORNOGRAPHIC IMAGINATION
Overview: The anti-pornography position has been widely reported in the popular media, but much less coverage has been given to writers who have offered a more sympathetic vision of the place of erotic representation in contemporary culture. Linda Williams's Hardcore has sparked a major debate within Film Studies because of her willingness to treat pornography as a genre rather than as a social problem. Laura Kipnis struggles to reconcile conflicting attitudes towards pornography in her study of Hustler. Discussion will center upon these two essays and we will watch a video produced by the Femme Collective, a group of female porn stars who are seeking to create a new feminine (and some claim feminist) form of pornography.
Linda Williams, "Feminine Re-Vision: 'What's The Sex All About?", Hard Core: Power, Pleasure and The Frenzy of the Visible (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).
Laura Kipnis, "(Male) Desire and (Female) Disgust: Reading Hustler," Lawrence Grossberg Et. Al., Op. Cit.
Session #5: HORROR AND SEXUAL IDENTITY
Overview: The horror film, Robin Wood argues, represents one of the places in American popular culture where film-makers may express values and attitudes that run counter with dominant ideology. Wood's claims for the progressiveness of certain horror films has led to an important reconsideration of this oft-devalued genre. Clover's work focuses more directly on questions of gender identity and the different forms of appeals the contemporary slasher film makes to male and female spectators. We will look at clips from many recent horror films and will watch and discuss Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Robin Wood, "An Introduction to the American Horror Film," in Bill Nichols (Ed.), Movies and Methods, II (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).
Carol Clover, "Her Body, Himself: Gender in the Slasher Film," in James Donald (Ed.), Fantasy and the Cinema (London: BFI, 1989).
Day 3 TEXTUALITY AND INTERTEXTUALITY
Session #1 FORMS OF INTERTEXTUALITY
Overview: Bennett and Woollacott's work on James Bond posed important questions about the shifting meanings that are attached to popular characters as they move across different representations, different media and different periods. A key question is how these various appeals to the meaning of the character are resolved by the reader and orchestrated by the producer.
Tony Bennett and Janet Woollacott, "Introduction," "The Bond Phenomenon" and "Moments of Bond," from Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero (London: Methuen, 1987).
"Semiotics/Semiology," "Sign," and "Structuralism," in O'Sullivan Et. Al., Op. Cit.
Session #2 THE ENTERTAINMENT SUPERSYSTEM: CHILDREN AND TELEVISION
Overview: The intertextuality which Bennett and Woollacott identified in their study of James Bond has been ruthlessly exploited by the producers of children's television. Critics denounce programs like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as half-hour commercials, but this approach opens a series of larger questions about how the video games, cartoons, comicbooks, merchandise, etc. works in relation to each other. Engelhardt and Kinder offer two rather different approaches to these questions.
Tom Engelhardt, "The Shortcake Strategy," in Todd Gitlin (Ed.), Watching Television (New York: Pantheon, 1986).
Marsha Kinder, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Supersystem and the Video Game Movie Genre," Playing With Power in Movies, Television and Video Games (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).
Session #3 WWF WRESTLING: SERIAL FICTION FOR MEN
Overview: John Fiske summarizes a body of criticism which has sought to locate the characteristic features of masculine and feminine forms of narrative. Television wrestling poses interesting problems for this argument since it combines features commonly identified as feminine (particularly seriality) and applies them to traditionally masculine subject matter. Our discussion will look closely at the World Wrestling Federation to see how it creates a sense of narrative continuity and melodramatic interest across a number of interconnected matches and competitions.
John Fiske, "Gender and Narrative Form," in Television Culture (London: Methuen, 1987).
Henry Jenkins, "Never Trust a Snake: WWF Wrestling as Masculine Melodrama" (WORK IN PROGRESS)
Session #4 THE MANY FACES OF THE BATMAN
Overview: Uricchio and Pearson's book pulled together writers from a number of different perspectives to consider the place of Batman within American culture. Their concluding essay examines the complex status of this character who has appeared in films, television, and comic books over his fifty year history. Meehan looks more closely at the economic determinations behind his recent film incarnation. We will look closely at various versions of the Batman myth as well as view Comic Book Confidential, a recent documentary on the history and art of the comic book.
William Uricchio and Roberta E. Pearson, "I'm Not Fooled By That Cheap Disguise." and Eileen Meehan, "Holy Commodity Fetish, Batman!: The Political Economy of a Commercial Intertext" in Roberta E. Pearson and William Uricchio (Eds.), The Many Faces of the Batman: Critical Approaches to a Superhero and His Media (New York: Routledge, 1991).
Day 4 AUDIENCES
Session #1 THE CULT FILM EXPERIENCE
Overview: The Rocky Horror Picture Show has generated remarkable forms of audience participation, exemplifying the contemporary phenomenon of the midnight cult film. We will watch Rocky Horror, discuss what aspects of the film solicit such response, and consider what writers have said more generally about the cult film audience.
J.P. Telotte, "Beyond All Reason: The Nature of the Cult" and Timothy Corrigan, "Film and the Culture of Cult" in J.P. Telotte (Eds.), The Cult Film Experience (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991).
Session #2 WATCHING TELEVISION WATCHERS
Overview: An important contemporary movement within cultural studies has employed ethnographic methodology to examine the place that television plays in the everyday life of its viewers. Fiske's essay offers a summary of this work and its preliminary conclusions, while Morley and Ang offer case studies of specific media audiences. A particular focus of our discussion will be on soap opera followers.
John Fiske, "Active Audiences," Television Culture op.cit.
David Morley, "Television and Gender," Family Television: Cultural Power and Domestic Leisure (London: Routledge, 1986).
Ien Ang, "Dallas Between Reality and Fiction," Watching Dallas: Soap Opera and the Melodramatic Imagination (London: Methuen, 1985).
Session #3 TEXTUAL POACHERS: THE SCIENCE FICTION FAN COMMUNITY
Overview: Michel de Certeau's Practice of Everyday Life provides analytic terms for discussing popular reading as a process of appropriation and remaking through which consumers drawn from existing works resources for exploring questions of more immediate personal and social interest. Jenkins employs de Certeau's model to discuss the cultural practices of the science fiction fan community. Our focus here will be on forms of writing and criticism within fandom. We will also look at videos which re-edit footage from television programs to create alternative narratives involving the same characters or to provide interpretation of the series materials.
Michel de Certeau, "Reading as Poaching," The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).
Henry Jenkins, "'Get A Life!': Fans, Poachers, Nomads" and "Scribbling in the Margins: Fan Readers/ Fan Writers," Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture (New York: Routledge, 1992).
Session #4 READING THE ROMANCE
Overview: Janice Radway's ethnographic account of a group of midwestern romance readers has been the model for many subsequent studies of the media audience. Radway looks not simply at the meanings that readers derive from the fictional narratives but also at the role which reading romances plays in their everyday social life (creating a space for themselves in the midst of family demands). We will discuss Radway's analysis and look at a recent documentary film, Romance Express, which explores the interplay between romance readers and writers.
Janice Radway, "The Readers and Their Romances," in Robyn R. Warhol and Diane Price Herndl, Feminisms: An Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1991).
Day 5 POSTMODERNISM AND TECHNOCULTURE
Session #1 POSTMODERNISM FOR BEGINNERS
Overview: Postmodernism has become one of the great buzzwords of the 1980s and 1990s, though virtually everyone who uses it employs it to refer to a different aspect of contemporary culture. These essays offer readible, if sometimes contradictory accounts of this phenomenon. We will see if working together we can not develop some sense of its meaning and significance. We will screen Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure as an exemplar of a film which has been labeled postmodern.
Mark Muro, "The Triumph of the 'Absolute Fake'," Boston Globe, November 18 1990.
Todd Gitlin, "Postmodernism Defined, At Last!," Utne Reader, July/August 1989.
Vivien Sobchack, "Postfuturism," Screening Space (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988).
Umberto Eco, "Travels in Hyperreality," Travels in Hyperreality (San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983).
Session #2 CYBERPUNK AND THE SCIENCE FICTION TRADITION
Overview: Science fiction has played an important role in the 20th century as a means of articulating contemporary attitudes towards the process of technological change. Drawing on clips from science fiction films as well as from several recent short stories, this session will focus on the emergence of cyberpunk as a new subgenre within science fiction and will examine what it suggests about contemporary attitudes towards technology.
Bruce Sterling, "Preface," William Gibson, "The Gernsback Continuum," and John Shirley, "Freezone" in Bruce Sterling (Ed.), Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (New York: Ace, 1986)
Session #3 THE VCR AND THE HOME COMPUTER: LIVING IN TECHNOCULTURE
Overview: Using the Rodney King incident as a starting point, we will discuss the impact of the videotape recorder and the home computer upon contemporary social and cultural experience. Sherry Turkle contemplates hacker culture as one example of how people fit computers into their everyday life.
Sherry Turkle, "Hackers: Loving the Machine For Itself," The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984).