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  Introduction to Cultural Theory

Eng 384 netforum   (please post by Wednesday 11:59pm)

Course Number: ENG 384
Course Title: Introduction to Cultural Theory
Professor: Bill McBride  438-7998
Credit Hours: 3
Meeting Time: 5:30-8:20 p.m. R
Meeting Place: CVA 149                  Office: STV 336      Office Hours: T & R 1-2pm




  • Brantlinger, Patrick. Crusoe's Footprints. Cultural Studies in Britain and America. Routledge, 1990.
  • Debord, Guy et al. Situationist International Anthology. Ed. Ken Knabb, Bureau of Public Secrets, 1981. (Some hardcopy selections provided, others on the web [click above].)
  • fanon.gif (4158 bytes) Fanon, Frantz. The Wretched of the Earth. [Les damne de la terre 1961], Grove.
  • F. C. Industrial Society and Its Future. Jolly Roger Press, 1995. (Also web-available.)
  • LaFargue, Paul. The Right To Be Lazy. Kerr.
  • Modeleski, Tanya. The Women Who Knew Too Much. Hitchcock and Feminist Theory. Routledge, 1988.
  • Renov, Michael, ed. Theorizing Documentary. AFI Film Readers, Routledge, 1999.
  • Selections from some of the following: Althusser, Gramsci, Fiske, Modleski, Spivak, Ryan & Kellner, Brecht, Dolan, Baudrillard, Jameson, Doane, Wittig, Graff, hooks, Kaplan, Haraway, Ross,
    Levee Blanc, "The Antinomies of Melancholy"
    Curtis Bowman, "Odysseus and the Siren Call of Enlightenment"
    Stephen Bronner, "Dialectics at a Standstill"
  • and others

Recomended Texts

  • greil.gif (8218 bytes) Marcus, Greil. Lipstick Traces. Harvard.
  • Alessandrini, Anthony C. Frantz Fanon: Critical Perspectives. Routledge 1999
  • Sedgewick, Sedgwick, Edgar, eds. Key Concepts in Cultural Theory. Routledge 1999.


This course is intended to serve as an introduction to the discipline commonly termed cultural studies. As it has evolved, cultural studies has found that writings in philosophy, psychoanalysis, politics and social theory, anthropology, feminism, and cinema can be most valuable for understanding and reading texts, that is, interpreting culture and its funding ideology. By questioning disciplinary boundaries, cultural studies opens up the possibility of studying culture from a position which asks what is the nature and condition of texts, discourses, and systems of meaning in general.

After a brief history of the ordeal in the early nineties required to successfully have this course approved both within the English Department and the College of Arts & Sciences, we will begin by reading Brantlinger and surveying a history of British Cultural studies and then the Frankfurt School, concentrating on the chapter in Adorno's and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment entitled "The Culture Industry." Next will turn to readings by Gramsci and Althusser in order to aquaint ourselves with their notions of ideological state systems, organic intellectuals, etc. We will then read texts by Guy DeBord and the Situationists for their reaction to the Frankfurt School and their analysis of the "Spectacle." I'll try to make a connection between (the lethargic) Lafargue, (the lethal) Fanon, and (the bloody) Unabomber as each advancing "slacker" critiques of the spectacle and alienated labor. We'll next turn to feminist/psychoanalytic, and marxist film theorists to hear what is being advanced regarding male and female subject positions in culture and how the spectacle promotes ideology, with occasion to read dramatic theory pertinent to these questions. We'll conclude with an examination of texts by current practitioners of cultural studies. We will ponder the phenomenology of the documentary and its political potential, consume and critique selected performative "texts" taken from drama, cinema, popular music, postmodern prose, popular fiction, advertising, and TV.


1. All students will post weekly responses to readings/lectures/discussion via

2. In-class presentation/critique of either one of the performative texts or theoretical texts. (Required of all graduate students, optional for undergraduates. )

3. A Mid-Term Examination.  (Historicized conceptual terminology [short answer] and a brief history and definition of cultural studies [essay].)

4. A written proposal of the final research project.

5. A final research paper (with an eye toward publication) of 12-15pp for undergraduates and 18-20 pp. for graduate students.

Grade evaluation will be determined by satisfying #s 1-4 and the student's ability to synthesize one or more of the theoretical approaches presented in readings and lectures, and apply such a perspective to a cultural "text" or "site" in a well-written, coherent final essay.