Lecture 1-Defining the Scope

Lecture 1-Defining the Scope - Lecture for August 31 and...

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Lecture for August 31 and Sept 7 classes Reading content referenced : Cullen, “Introduction” (1-8); Storey, “Cultural Studies and the Study of Popular Culture: An Introduction” (1-8); Raymond Williams, “Popular” and “Culture” definitions (see Blackboard site). Cullen, “Novel Approaches: The Rise of Popular Culture” (10-32) & “Democratic Vistas: The Emergence of popular Culture, 1800-1860” (33-86). Defining the Scope: What is “popular;” ”What is “culture”? One of the most important aspects of learning a new area of inquiry (in this case, American studies as a discipline and popular culture as one of its areas of focus) is defining the scope of the inquiry and the methodologies in use. While the “scope of the inquiry” references what exactly is being studied, “methodology” has to do with how it is being studied. You are all new to American Studies as an academic discipline, so a little background is in order. As I mentioned in class this past Friday, we are using books that are written by a British author and an American author specifically so that you can be introduced to the different ways culture has been studied in the academy. While John Storey’s book provides background and theories associated with British “cultural studies,” Jim Cullen’s text is interested in providing a history of American popular cultural products and their origins. Both of these texts will help you to form definitions and answer the following questions: What and where is “America”? What and who is “American”? What is “culture”? What does the word “popular” connote and denote? These are questions we will be discussing in great depth on Friday, Sept. 7, so this lecture will provide you some information about how we will think about these types of questions over the course of the semester. What and where is “America”? The American Studies Association (ASA), the national organization for scholars of American culture, has wrestled a great deal with how to define the scope of American Studies as a discipline; i.e., what American Studies scholars should study and what types of studies should be labeled as part of “American Studies as a discipline). One the biggest roadblocks the Association has hit has been defining “America” itself. A recent president of the ASA, Janice Radway, titled her 1998 address to the organization “What’s in a Name” and asked the association’s scholars (which now include you and me!) to reconsider what the focus and 1
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definition of “American Studies” should be. Among her questions (and the questions of other scholars on this topic) are: 1. Should “America” be understood as a geographic location? If so, what counts as “America?” Is “America” just the United States or does it include the entire landmass sometimes referred to as “the Americas,” which includes North, Central and South America? Could studying Canada
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Lecture 1-Defining the Scope - Lecture for August 31 and...

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