Concepts of Culture, Fordham U, Fall 2017

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Concepts of Culture---ENGL 6905---Fall 2017

Glenn Hendler, Instructor

Course Description

'What do we talk about when we talk about "culture"? This class will explore this keyword in and around literary studies along two parallel tracks. First, we will explore the historical development of different concepts of culture over the last two centuries or so. Second, we will explore a range of theoretical perspectives from the past three decades that fit loosely under the rubric of Cultural Studies. Both tracks will necessitate broadly interdisciplinary approaches to the topic. We will explore, for instance, a relatively literary manifestation of the concept in Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy, but also how the concept of culture figures in the early history of the human sciences, including anthropology, sociology, and psychology. Similarly, since work in the contemporary field of Cultural Studies only rarely limits its objects of study to the literary; we will sample theoretical developments in the study of popular music, film and television, etc.


Keyword Archives

Over the course of the semester, you will be contributing to two keyword archives.

  • The scholarship archive (Concepts of Culture 2017) will consist of interesting usage examples of the word “culture” (and its variants, e.g. “cultural”) in readings you are doing in other courses this semester, and/or other scholarly readings you are doing. Though this course is more of a “pure theory” course than it is about how to “apply” cultural theory to your scholarly work, this assignment is designed to help you start thinking about the latter.
  • The everyday life archive (Concepts of Culture 2017) will consist of interesting usage examples of the word “culture” (and its variants) interesting usage examples of the word “culture” (and its variants) you come across in contemporary culture and politics. Be listening for mentions of it in the news, in everyday speech, on TV and YouTube, in music—anywhere. Write it down when you hear it, and add it to this archive. The point is that this class should attune you to the complexity and ubiquity of the concept of culture and provide you with ways of analyzing it and discussing it when it comes up.

Most often you’ll start out by transcribing a quotation into the wiki. However, the second archive in particular might also include sound files; links to videos; an image that somehow references "culture"…or anything else you can think of, that you can find a way of adding to the wiki.

  • Each time you add an example to the archive, you should add a short paragraph explaining why you have added it to the wiki. This need not be lengthy formal writing—it canjust be a sentence or two--but it should say something about why it is interesting, and ideally something about how it connects to the concerns of the class. A reference to one of the class readings in which “culture” is defined and historicized would be an especially persuasive way of making the connection.
  • You must add at least five items to each archive over the course of the semester, before our final class meeting. Your first addition to each archive must happen by the end of September, but otherwise there are no deadlines for the other eight or more contribution to the archive. That said, I strongly recommend that you not wait until the last day and then hunt for usage examples.

The outcome of this assignment will be two annotated archives that document and analyze the concept of culture, one in a range of literature and literary scholarship, the other in everyday life in New York City in Fall 2017. Ideally, these will be of use not only to us as a class, but also to others in the world—the Keywords Collaboratory is a publicly accessible space—who want to think critically and analytically about culture. As the term goes on, these archives will grow, and are likely to become unwieldy. One collaborative task, as a group, will be to keep the archives organized in ways that will make them useful to us as a class and to anyone else who encounters them. We may take short class breaks a few times during the semester to discuss ways you might do so. These breaks will also allow us to talk in broad terms—distinct from our discussions of individual theoretical and scholarly texts—about how our understanding of the concept of culture is developing over the course of the semester.

Instructions for First-Time Users

Students: Students enrolled in this class need to create an account, and then email me your user name so I can give you privileges to edit and create pages. I recommend choosing a name that I can recognize, but remember that anyone in the world can access this site, so it would be best not to use your first and last name. If I were a student, I'd be "GlennH." Please note: You can only modify pages once I have activated your account.

  1. To create an account, click on the link in the top right-hand corner of this page.
  2. Submit all the information requested on the registration page. Make sure to remember your user name and password.
  3. Email me your user name so I can activate your account. You will not be able to edit pages in this Collaboratory until you have received a reply to that e-mail.
  4. Even before I activate your account, you're welcome to experiment with editing pages in the Sandbox. Check out the Help and FAQs pages for tips on how to format pages.
  5. Once you get an email reply from me, you'll be able to edit pages.

Other Visitors to the Site: If you're not enrolled in this class, you can still read and comment on the work we're generating throughout the semester. This is a work in progress, so please check back for new additions and developments. You're also welcome to me with any questions or comments about our course.

Test area--do this after you've received an e-mail from Professor Hendler saying you're approved

As soon as you've been approved as a collaboratory participant (and to make sure you have been approved), go into the page linked below. In it you'll find a blank page (if you're the first to open it); otherwise you'll find other people's contributions. . Open the "edit" tab for the page and then add a phrase or sentence that includes your name (alphabetically in the list). For example, if your name is Jane Doe, you could write "Jane Doe was here." First click "preview" to make sure it's right, then click Save the page, and you should see a sentence that says "Jane Doe was here." If you can't do this, you aren't properly signed in or haven't been approved yet. Make sure you're signed in, and if you are, check with me to get yourself approved as a participant.

Helpful Tips and Links

  • The best browsers to use for editing are the most recent versions of Firefox and Internet Explorer because they support the MediaWiki editing toolbar. Other browsers may not support the toolbar. However, it's very easy to add and edit text without the toolbar. For very simple coding instructions, check out the Cheat Sheet of Wiki Markup Language (i.e., how to code in this environment).
  • Another editing option is the Wiki Edit app for iPads.
  • A page for new users, with basic information about how to do the things you need to do.
  • Here is a longer list of commands you can use to format text.

Note: It is possible to get an e-mail notifying you when pages are changed. In preferences, click "Email me on page changes."