ENGL 556 A: Cultural Studies

Methods and Popular Objects

Meeting Time: 
MW 11:30am - 1:20pm
MGH 271
Tom Foster
Tom Foster

Syllabus Description:

Schedule of readings:

Works not included in the books ordered for the class are available as pdfs on the “Files” page of the course Canvas site; see the link at the left border of the site.  Works available online have links included in the schedule below.  You are not expected to have read suggested works.  I am likely to refer to them in class, and they are primarily intended as extra reading for students with research interests in these particular areas.


Week 1.

September 25: Introduction


Week 2. Theorizing commodification and cultural objects

September 30: Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”

                                   Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in an Age of Mechanical Reproduction”  

                                   Lawrence Levine, “The Folklore of Industrial Society,” available online through the UW library site:


                                  Manny Farber, “White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art”

Suggested only: Walter Benjamin, “Unpacking My Library”


October 2: Stuart Hall, “Notes on Deconstructing the Popular”      

                          Fredric Jameson, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture,” available online through the UW library site: https://www-jstor-org.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/stable/466409?sid=primo&origin=crossref&seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents

                         Richard Dyer, “Entertainment and Utopia”

Suggested only: Ernst Bloch, selections from The Utopian Function of Art and Literature

Suggested only: Andreas Huyssen, “Mass Culture as Woman: Modernism’s Other”

Suggested only: Michael Warner, excerpt from Letters of the Republic



Week 3. The Birmingham School and articulation theory

October 7: Richard Johnson, “What Is Cultural Studies, Anyway?”

                          Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms”

                          From Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues on Cultural Studies:

                                          “Marxism without Guarantees”

                                         “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies”


October 9: From Stuart Hall: Critical Dialogues on Cultural Studies:

                                          “New Ethnicities” 

                                          “What is this Black in Black Popular Culture?”

                                         “On Postmodernism and Articulation: An Interview with Stuart Hall”

                           Lawrence Grossberg, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, chapter 1

                          Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, excerpt from A Thousand Plateaus

Suggested: Jasbir Puar, “Queer Times, Terrorist Assemblages”

Suggested: Alexander Weheliye, “Assemblages”

Suggested: Paul Gilroy, “Cultural Studies and Ethnic Absolutism”


Week 4.

October 14: Lawrence Grossberg, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, chapters 2-5


October 16: Transformations of everyday life and problems of critique

                            Michel De Certeau, “’Making Do: Uses and Tactics,” chapter 3 in The Practice of Everyday Life

                            Rita Felski, “Introduction” to New Literary History 33. 4, special issue on “Everyday Life”; available online at https://muse.jhu.edu/journals/new_literary_history/v033/33.4felski.html  

                            Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers, chapter 1

Suggested: Meghan Morris, “Banality in Cultural Studies”


Week 5.

October 21: Grossberg, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, chapter 9, “Nation, Hegemony, and Culture”; and chapter 12, “The Disciplined Mobilization of Everyday Life”

                             Gilles Deleuze, “Postscript on Societies of Control”

                             Eva Cherniavsky, “After Bourgeois Nationalism”

Suggested: Octavia Butler, “Bloodchild”


October 23: Genre fiction

                             Darko Suvin, Metamorphoses of Science Fiction, chapters 1 and 4

                             Farah Mendelsohn, Rhetorics of Fantasy, “Introduction”

                             Steven Shaviro, “Thinking Like a Philosopher”

                             Sami Schalk, “Introduction,” to Bodyminds Reimagined

                             Eugene Thacker, “Clouds of Unknowing,” from In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1

                            Ted Chiang, “Story of Your Life”

                             Sofia Samatar, “The Red Thread”

                            Judith Merril, “That Only a Mother”

Suggested: Neil Gaiman, “A Study in Emerald”

Suggested: Ray Bradbury, “Way Up in the Middle of the Air”

Suggested: Jane Bennett, “The Force of Things,” chapter 1 in Vibrant Matter

Suggested: Gwyneth Jones, “Metempsychosis of the Machine”

Suggested: Kodwo Eshun, “Further Considerations on Afrofuturism,” available online at https://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/new_centennial_review/v003/3.2eshun.html


Week 6.

October 28:  Janice Radway, “The Readers and Their Romances” and “The Act of Reading the Romance,” chapters 2 and 3 in Reading the Romance

                             John G. Cawelti, “The Study of Literary Formulas”

                             Nalo Hopkinson, “Shift”

                            Rachel Swirsky, “Eros, Philia, Agape”

Suggested: Janice Radway, “The Ideal Romance: The Promise of Patriarchy,” chapter 4 in Reading the Romance


October 30: Fan fiction and fan culture

                             Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers, chapters 2, 5, and 6

                             Stuart Hall, “Encoding, Decoding”

                             Constance Penley, “Feminism, Psychoanalysis and the Study of Popular Culture”  

Suggested: http://fanlore.org/wiki/The_Weight_Collected


Week 7.

November 4:  Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers, chapter 3

                               Selections from Coppa, ed., The Fanfiction Reader

                              Andre M. Carrington, “Dreaming in Color: Racial Revisions in Fan Fiction,” chapter 6 of Speculative Blackness

Suggested: Leslie Fish, “Shelter” and “Poses,” available online at



November 6: Selections from Coppa, ed., The Fanfiction Reader

                               Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”

                               Katie Forsyth, selected fan fiction available at http://liquidfic.org/katie.html or


                               Not Literally Productions, “Sorted This Way,” available online at "Sorted This Way" — A Lady Gaga parody by Not Literally Productions

                       Draco and the Malfoys, “Potions Yesterday,” available online at Potions Yesterday - Draco and the Malfoys



Week 8.

November 11: No class; Veteran’s day

November 13:  Popular music and subculture studies

                                  Selections from Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style

                                  Angela McRobbie, “Settling Accounts with Subculture”

                                 Songs available on Youtube:

                                           Crass, “Do They Owe Us a Living”

                                           Manic Hispanic, “Mommy’s Little Cholo”

                                           Two Nice Girls, “I Spent My Last Ten Dollars on Birth Control and Beer”

                                           George Clinton, “If Anybody Gets Funked Up (It’s Gonna Be You)”

                                           Janelle Monae, “Dance Apocalyptic” and “Electric Lady”     

Suggested: Lawrence Grossberg, We Gotta Get Out of This Place, chapter 6

Suggested: Mark Anthony Neal, “’You Remind Me of Something’: Toward a Post-Soul Aesthetic”

Suggested: John Storey, “Words and Music: Making Plain Talk Dance”

Suggested: Simon Frith, “The Cultural Study of Popular Music”

Suggested: George Lipsitz, “Cruising Around the Historical Bloc: Postmodernism and

Popular Music in East Los Angeles”


Week 9.

November 18: Film and TV

                                  Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” and “Afterthoughts”

                                  Kaja Silverman, “Suture”

                                 John Ellis, “Broadcast TV as Cultural Form,” “Broadcast TV as Sound and Image,” and “The Broadcast TV Viewer,” chapters 7, 8, and 10 from Visible Fictions

                                 Mark B.N. Hansen, “Introduction,” in New Philosophy for New Media

                                 Lisa Nakamura, “Introduction: Digital Racial Formations and Networked Images of the Body,” in Digitizing Race 

Suggested: Milly Buonnano, chapter 1, “The Age of Television,” and chapter 2, “Theories of the Medium,” in The Age of Television: Experiences and Theories, available online through the UW library site at https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/lib/washington/reader.action?docID=327868

Suggested: John Ellis, “The Third Era of Television: Plenty,” in Seeing Things

Suggested: Ien Ang, “Politics of Empirical Audience Research” and “Ethnography and Contextualism in Audience Studies,” chapters 2 and 4 in Living Room Wars

Suggested: Lynne Joyrich, “Networking: Interlacing Feminism, Postmodernism, and Television Studies,” chapter 7 in Re-Viewing Reception


November 20: Eva Cherniavsky, “Beginning without End: Derealizing the Political in Battlestar Galactica”

                                  Selections from Battlestar Galactica (2004-2010), viewed in class


Week 10.

November 25: Comics and graphic novels

                                  Scott McCloud, Understanding Comics

                                  Winsor McCay, selections from Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend

                                  George Herriman, selections from Krazy Kat

                                  Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis, “Murder the Husband, Murder the Story”


November 27: No class; Thanksgiving holiday


Week 11.

December 2: Superhero comics/Technoculture studies

                              Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen 

                              Charles Hatfield, “Jack Kirby and the Marvel Aesthetic”

                              Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto”

                               Lisa Nakamura, “Cyberrace”

Suggested: Ramzi Fawaz, “Introduction: Superhumans in America,” from The New Mutants

Suggested:  N. Katherine Hayles, “Toward Embodied Virtuality,” chapter 1 in How We Became Posthuman

Suggested: Lev Manovich, “The Language of Cultural Interfaces”


December 4: Interactive fiction and gaming

                              Alexander Galloway, “Allegories of Control”

                             Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter, “Introduction: Games in the Age of Empire”

                             Ed Chang, “Gaming as Writing, Or, World of Warcraft as World of Wordcraft,” available online at http://www2.bgsu.edu/departments/english/cconline/gaming_issue_2008/Chang_Gaming_as_writing/

                             Emily Short, “Galatea”; available online at


            or http://pr-if.org/play/galatea/

Suggested: Nick Montfort, “The Pleasure of the Text Adventure”

Suggested: Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig de Peuter, “Games of Multitude”

Suggested: Lev Manovich, “Navigable Space,” from The Language of New Media



Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 10:50pm