You are here

ENGL 556 B: Cultural Studies

Introduction to Cultural Studies

Meeting Time: 
TTh 1:30pm - 3:20pm
SAV 141
Professor Harkins in front of bookshelf
Gillian Harkins

Syllabus Description:

Professor Gillian Harkins                                                    

Virtual Office Hours Friday 10-12 or by appointment

In-Person Office Hours at 306-A Padelford Hall by appointment                                               


What Are Cultural Studies?


How did we get here, to this present, with our imaginations limited by a common sense of possibility that we did not choose?

-- Hua Hsu, “Stuart Hall and the Rise of Cultural Studies” The New Yorker (2017)


This course will introduce fields related to cultural studies. The course will center “culture” as a site of contested power as well as critical debate, covering key works by Stuart Hall and the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies while also moving away from any singular “origin story” of studying “culture” as a concept, domain, or practice.  We will open by centering Stuart Hall's work and role in elaborating "cultural studies" as a particular intervention in field-organizations of knowledge in the UK university system and its relationship to work in the US.  We will clarify debates about "culture" as a concept emerging across British and US empires, including critiques of how “cultural studies” has been taken up and institutionalized in those university systems. By the end of the ten week course, students should have a sense of: 1) what people mean by “cultural studies” as a field or a practice within or across various fields; 2) some major debates about studying culture as a critical practice; and 3) what kind of critical projects might interest them moving forward.  Please feel free to email me with questions about this course or to see if it is likely to suit your interests.

FYI: On February 28, this course will host a Simpson Center-sponsored virtual visit from co-authors Sabina Vaught, Brian McKinley Jones Brayboy and Jeremiah Chin to discuss their recent open-access book The School-Prison Trust (University of Minnesota Press, 2022).   


Course Format:  The Course is planned as an in-person course to be held on UW Seattle Campus.  If we need to move the course on-line,  I will adapt our course for delivery through the UW Canvas course platform.  


On-Line Course Readings: All course materials will be available through this Canvas website.  If you have trouble accessing any of these materials, please reach out to me.


Course Requirements

  • Conversation: This class meets twice a week to explore the meanings of cultural studies.  There is no prior knowledge or expertise expected.  Please come to seminar with passages circled, questions ready, and confusion welcomed.  We will start each class by reading with the assigned piece, giving it a generous welcome and attending to what might have been at stake in thinking and writing this way.  We will then move on to our concerns, doubts, or critiques of the piece, with an emphasis on what might be modified or made useful about engaging more critically.  
  • Project: A final piece of writing will be due at the end of the quarter, and each student will select the approach that suits their learning goals.  Options include  a syllabus, a conference paper, a research essay, a reflection essay, an annotated bibliography, or another genre proposed by the student.  These pieces will be evaluated based on specific criteria we will develop together.


Course Policies

    • Academic Conduct:  We all share responsibility for creating a positive shared learning community.  Everyone is invited to raise questions and offer additional perspectives about any materials discussed in class. Everyone is also expected to contribute their ideas in a manner that is thoughtful and respectful of the ideas expressed by others.  Here are some useful guidelines for class discussions. Here are some additional guidelines for online discussions
    • Academic Integrity: The University takes academic integrity very seriously. Behaving with integrity is part of our responsibility to our shared learning community.  Please review this University of Washington website for a definition and explanation of academic misconduct. If you are confused or have any questions about a specific instance, please feel free to see me in advance of the due date.
    • Academic Accommodations: It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please activate your accommodations via myDRS so we can discuss how they will be implemented in this course. If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), contact DRS directly to set up an Access Plan. DRS facilitates the interactive process that establishes reasonable accommodations. Contact DRS at
    • Religious Accommodations: Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy, Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.


Additional Resources

Additional support for technology access, writing and research support, financial and health needs, food, parenting, and legal resources and have been gathered at this link: 



Last updated: 
January 3, 2023 - 10:55pm