Back to School Special: Cultural Studies of Communication

I thought people might be interested in what I am doing on the teaching front this term, so I figured I would throw up the syllabus for my new PhD Seminar, the Cultural Studies of Communication. This class is intended to introduce our graduate students with the foundational texts of the Cultural Studies tradition. I am joining a rotation around this class with my Annenberg colleagues Sarah Banet-Weiser (who is now Chair of Communication) and Taj Frazier. We each bring somewhat different flavors to the class, reflecting our different trajectories through the field. For me, the class is a homecoming of sorts, returning to readings I first encountered in John Fiske's seminars at University of Iowa and later, University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the early 1980s. Some of them have been classics that I teach in various contexts, some of them I absorbed into my thinking and moved on, but this is the first time I have had a chance to systematically work through this material since, and I am looking forward to the rediscoveries I, through the students, will make along the way.  

COMM 519: Cultural Studies in Communication

Spring 2015

Mondays 2:00-4:50 pm


4 Units


Course Description:


This course is an introduction to the theoretical foundations of and contemporary work in cultural studies, with a particular emphasis on the study of media, popular culture, media audiences and subcultures, consumer culture, and communication. Running across the course is the concept of culture, and a central concern here will be identifying a range of different approaches to cultural analysis, focusing primarily on the key figures in the Birmingham School tradition (especially Raymond Williams and Stuart Hall, but also such contemporaries as Angela McRobbie, Dick Hebdige, E. P. Thompson, and Richard Hoggart), as well as their influences and their disciples.  We will consider cultural studies as an academic movement that has had impact across a range of disciplines, national contexts, and research fields, looking for what these various approaches might have in common, as well as some key debates and controversies within the field. We will be reading a broad array of materials. Realize that this cannot possibly be an exhaustive course, given how much work has been produced under the Cultural Studies banner. You should look at this semester, however, as an introductory overview that will help you to map the field and identify materials you may want to spend more time with in the future.


Course Requirements


Contributions to Class Forum on Blackboard (20 Percent)

Students should share short reflections or questions on the materials read for each week's session, which can be used as a springboard for class discussions. These should be posted by 10 a.m. on the day the class is being held. (20 percent)


Class Participation -- Students are expected to come to the class prepared to engage actively in discussion of all of the readings. My approach is very discussion-focused, and students actively help to set the agenda for each of our exchanges. I expect students to be open-minded and generous in responding to their colleagues; our goal is to create a safe space where we can discuss sensitive topics surrounding culture and identity. (10 percent)


Short Paper 1  -- Students should write a 5-7 page essay selecting a key figure from the history of Cultural Studies and looking closely at several of their works to assess their core contributions to the field. How do they fit within the larger tradition of cultural studies? What forms of cultural analysis do they employ? Which other theorists do they engage in their work? What do you see as their key contributions? You should be aware that you will be sharing this report with your classmates. (15 points)


Short Paper 2 -- Students will write a 5-7 page essay examining a key debate in the cultural studies tradition. You should look critically at 3 or more authors who have addressed this question and discuss points of agreement or disagreement between them. Why has this topic been such an important issue in the field? What is at stake in this debate? How would you position your own work in relation to this conflict?  You will be asked to share this report with your classmates. (15 points)


Note: These two papers can be done in either order, but the first one is due on Feb. 13 and the second is due on March 27.


Final Paper (40 percent)

Students should write a 20-page essay on a topic of their own interests as they reflect on the core themes and concerns that have run through the class. You should apply some of the theoretical and methodological models we have been studying to look more closely at a concrete case study, ideally one that fits within your own larger research interests. Use this assignment as a chance to think more deeply about how your research might fit within cultural studies. Also, students will give a 10-minute final presentation sharing their project with the class. The final paper will be due on the exam date designated for the class. I recommend doing the in-class presentation while the ideas are still taking shape, so you can get feedback from me and your classmates, and build upon it as you do the final drafts of your paper.



  • John Storey (ed.), Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader (London: Routledge, 2008).
  • Kuan-Hsing Chen and David Morley (eds.) Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 1996).
  • Henry Jenkins, Tara McPherson, and Jane Shattuc (eds.) Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003).


All other readings can be found on Blackboard.


Class Schedule:


Day 1  Monday, January 12th: The Concept of Culture

  • Matthew Arnold, “Culture and Anarchy,” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, pp. 6-11.
  • F.R. Leavis, “Mass Civilization and Minority Culture” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, pp. 12-20.
  • Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass  Deception," Dialectic of Englightenment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007), pp.29-43.
  • Raymond Williams, “Culture is Ordinary” in Ben Highmore (ed.), The Everyday Life Reader (London: Routledge, 2011), pp.91-100.
  • Raymond Williams,  “The Analysis of Culture,” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, pp. 32-40.
  •  Raymond Williams, "Dominant, Residual and Emergent," Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1979), pp.121-135.

Day 2 Monday, January 26th: Reading Culture

  • Stuart Hall, “Notes on Deconstructing ‘The Popular’” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, pp. 508-518.
  • Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies”, Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, pp. 261-274.
  • Stuart Hall,  “Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy and The Cultural Turn,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 10, March 2007, pp. 39-49.
  • Richard Hoggart, “The Full Rich Life & The Newer Mass Art: Sex in Shiny Packets,” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, pp. 26-31.
  • E.P. Thompson, “Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteenth Century,” Past & Present No. 50 (Feb., 1971), pp. 76-136.
  • Carolyn Steedman, “Culture, Cultural Studies, and the Historians,” in Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler (eds.), Cultural Studies. New York/London: Routledge, pp. 613-622.
  • Charlotte Brunsdon, “A Thief in the Night: Stories of Feminism in the 1970s at CCCS,” Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, pp. 275-285.

Day 3 Monday, February 2nd: Subcultures and Resistance

  • Dick Hebdige, “Subculture: The Meaning of Style,”in Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton  (eds.) The Subcultures Reader (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 121-129.
  • Paul E. Willis, “Elements of a Culture,” in Learning to Labour: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs (London: Saxon House, 1977), pp.11-50.
  • John Clarke, Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson, & Brian Roberts, “Subcultures, Cultures and Class: A Theoretical Overview,” in Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton (eds.) The Subcultures Reader (London: Routledge, 1997), pp. 100-111.
  • Angela McRobbie,“Settling Accounts with Subcultures: A Feminist Critique,” in Tony Bennett, Graham Martin, Colin Mercer, and Janet Woolacott (eds.), Culture, Ideology and Social Process (London: Batsford, 1980), pp. 111-123.
  • Angela McRobbie, “Second-Hand Dresses and the Role of the Ragmarket,” and “Shut Up and Dance: Youth Culture and Changing Modes of Femininity,” Postmodernism and Popular Culture (London; Routledge, 1994), pp.135-176.
  • Sarah Thornton, “The Social Logic of Subcultural Capital” in Ken Gilder (ed.) The Subculture Reader (London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 184-192.

Day 4 Monday, February 9th: The Origins of Audience Studies

  • Stuart Hall, “Encoding/Decoding,” in Simon During (ed.), The Cultural Studies Reader (London: Routledge, 2007), pp. 90-103.
  • Tony Bennett, “Texts. Readers, Reading Formations, The Bulletin of the Midwest Modern Language Association 16(1), Spring 1983, pp. 3-17.
  • John Fiske, “British Cultural Studies and Television,” in Robert C. Allen (ed.), Channels of Discourse Reassembled: Television and Contemporary Criticism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992), pp. 284-326.
  • Virginia Nightingale, “The ‘New Phase’ In Audience Research,” Studying Audiences: The Shock of the Real (London: Routledge, 1996), pp. 59-93.
  • John Tulloch, “Back to Class and Race: Situation Comedy,” Watching Television Audiences (London: Bloomsbury, 2000), pp. 157-178.
  • David Morley, ”Introduction,” Television, Audiences, and Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 1992), pp. 1-42.
  • Jim McGuigan, “Trajectories of Cultural Populism,” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, pp. 606-617.

Day 5 Monday, February 23rd: Roots in Marxism

  • Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, “Ruling Class and Ruling Ideas,” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, 58-59.
  • Karl Marx, “Base and Superstructure,” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, pp.60-61.
  • Antonio Gramsci, “Hegemony, Intellectuals, and the State,” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, pp. 75-80.
  • Stuart Hall, “The Problem of Ideology: Marxism Without Guarantees,” “Gramsci’s Relevance for the Study of Race and Ethnicity,” in Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, pp. 24-45, 411-441.

Day 6 Monday, March 2nd: Power, Knowledge, and Discourse

  • Michel Foucault, “Panopticism,” Discipline and Punish (London: Vintage, 1995), pp. 195-230.
  • Michel Foucault, “The Repressive Hypothesis,” History of Sexuality, Vol.1: An Introduction (London: Vintage, 1990), pp.15-50.
  • Michel Foucault, “Two Lectures,” Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, 1972-1977 (London: Vintage, 1980), pp. 78-108.
  • Michel Foucault,  “Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Hetrotopias,” Architecture/Mouvement/ Continuité, October 1984.
  • Michel De Certeau, “‘Making Do’: Uses and Tactics,” “Foucault and Bourdieu,” “Uses of Language,” from The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011), pp. 29-42, 45-60, 131-176.
  • John Fiske, “Introduction,” Media Matters: Race and Gender in U.S. Politics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), pp. 1-20.
  • David Halperin, “The Queer Politics of Michel Foucault,” Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), pp. 15-125.


Day 7 Monday, March 9th: Cultural Hierarchies

  • Pierre Bourdieu, “Distinction and The Aristocracy of Culture,” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, pp. 398-508.
  • Charlotte Brunsdon, “Questions of Quality,” Screen Tastes: Soap Opera to Satellite Dishes (London: Routledge, 2005), pp. 105-166
  • Eric Michels, “Bad Aboriginal Art,” Bad Aboriginal Art: Tradition, Media, and Technological Horizons (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994), pp. 143-164.
  • Lawrence Grossberg, "Another Boring Day in Paradise: Rock and Roll and the Empowerment of Everyday Life," Popular Music 4, 1984, pp. 225-258.
  • Ien Ang, “Dallas and The Ideology of Mass Culture, in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, pp. 173-182.
  • Ellen Seiter, “Toys’R’Us,” Sold Separately: Children and Parents in Consumer Culture (Rutgers: Rutgers University Press, 1995), pp. 193-226.

Day 8 Monday, March 23rd: Pleasure and Transgression

  • Mikhail Bakhtin, excerpt from Rabelais and His World (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009).
  • Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, “Bourgeois Hysteria and the Carnivalesque,” The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (Cornell: Cornell University Press, 1986), pp. 171-190.
  • Meghan Morris, “Banality in Cultural Studies,” Block #14, 1988,
  • Laura Kipnis, “(Male) Desire and (Female) Disgust: Reading Hustler,” in Lawrence Grossberg, Cary Nelson, and Paula Treichler (eds.), Cultural Studies (London: Routledge, 1991), pp. 373-391.
  • Alison James, “Confections, Concoctions, and Conceptions,” in Henry Jenkins (ed.), The Children’s Culture Reader (New York: New York University Press, 1999), pp. 41-57.


Day 9 Monday, March 30th: Identity and Difference

  • Cornel West, “The New Cultural Politics of Difference” October, Summer 1990, pp. 93- 109.
  • Stuart Hall, “‘What Is This ‘Black’ in Black Popular Culture?” and “New Ethnicities,” in Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, pp. 442-452, 468-478.
  • Issac Julian and Kobena Mercer, “De Margin and De Center,” in Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies, pp. 452-467.
  • bell hooks, “Postmodern Blackness,” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, 388-394.
  • Erica Rand, “Breeders on a Golf Ball: Normalizing Sex at Ellis Island,” The Ellis Island Snow Globe (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005), pp. 41-66.
  • George Lipsitz, “Race, Place, and Power”, “The White Spatial Imaginary,” and “The Black Spatial Imaginary,” How Racism Takes Place (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011), pp. 1-72.


Day 10 Monday, April 6th: Globalization

  • Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” in Cary Nelson and Lawrence  Grossberg (eds.), Marxism and the Interpretation of Culture (London: MacMillan, 1988), pp. 271-313.
  • Arjan Appadurai, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy,” Theory, Culture, and Society 7, 1990, pp. 295-310.
  • Mary Louise Pratt, “Arts of the Contact Zone,” Profession, 1991, pp. 33-40.
  • George Yudice, “The Expediency of Culture,” The Expediency of Culture: Uses of Culture in the Global Era (Durham: Duke University Press, 2004), pp. 9-39.
  • Homi K. Baba, “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse,” The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 2004), pp. 121-131.


Day 11 Monday, April 13th: The Pleasures and Politics of Popular Culture

NOTE: All of today’s readings come from Henry Jenkins, Tara McPherson, and Jane Shattuc (eds.) Hop on Pop: The Politics and Pleasures of Popular Culture (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003):

  • Henry Jenkins, Tara McPherson and Jane Shattuc, “The Culture That Sticks to Your Skin: A Manifesto for a New Cultural Studies,” pp. 3-25.
  • Alexander Doty, “My Beautiful Wickedness’: The Wizard of Oz as Lesbian Fantasy,” 138-158.
  • Geraldine Bloustein, “Ceci N’est Pas Une Jeune Fille”: Videocrams, Representation and ‘Othering’ in the Worlds of Teenage Girls,” pp. 162-186.
  • Robert Drew, “‘Anyone Can Do It’: Forging a Participatory Culture in Karaoke Bars,” 254-269.
  • Sharon Mazer, “Watching Wrestling/Writing Performance,” pp. 270-286.
  • Matthew Tinkom, Joy Van Fuqua, and Amy Villarejo, “On Thrifting,” pp. 459-471.



Day 12 Monday, April 20th: Contemporary Debates in Cultural Studies

  • Nick Couldry and Henry Jenkins (eds.), “Participations: Dialogues on the Participatory Promises of Contemporary Culture and Politics,” International Journal of Communication 8, 2014, Forum pp. 1069-1112; 1129-1151; 1216-1242; 1446-1473.
  • Nicholas Garnham, “Political Economy and Cultural Studies: Reconciliation or Divorce?.” in Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader, 618-629.
  • John Hartley, “Creative Industries,” Creative Industries (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2005), pp. 1-40.
  • Graham Turner, “Unintended Consequences: Convergence Culture, New Media Studies, and Creative Industries,” What’s Become of Cultural Studies? (London: Sage, 2011), pp. 93-117.
  • Lawrence Grossberg, “The Heart of Cultural Studies,” Cultural Studies in the Future Tense (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), pp. 7-56.

Day 13 Monday, April 27th (LAST DAY OF CLASS)

Student Presentations