Coming to Terms with Culture

For this short assignment (minimum 600 words, submitted via email), you should start to work toward analyzing the cultural artifact that you will address further in Paper 2. For both the short assignment and the paper, we want to draw on Harris’s notions of “coming to terms,” “forwarding,” and “countering” so that we can better understand how the cultural artifact works and how we can draw on class readings to analyze it. This analysis should draw on concepts and ideas from our class readings.

One challenge will be choosing a cultural artifact or text to analyze. Our understanding of “text” here is broad. You could focus on a text from popular culture such as a song, music video, television show, movie, or advertisement. You could look at examples from fashion, sports, food, entertainment, politics, or business. You can focus on a particular person who has some sort of cultural significance. Just about anything will work as long as you can make specific observations about the text and analyze it through the lens of our readings.

Your work should address the following prompts and questions:

  • Your first analysis challenge is to “come to terms” with the cultural text. How would you define the text’s project? What is the purpose of the text? How does it shape our ideas about what it is about? What sort of perspective does it offer? What keywords, passages, examples, or details can you identify from the text to support your thinking about its purpose and perspective? What details from the text are particularly important in terms of our understanding of it?
  • Offer your own thoughts on how this text is significant. How does the text offer new ideas, contribute to a conversation, or shape our thinking in some way? How does the text build on its influences and its cultural context? How is it different from other texts that are similar to it?
  • Put the text into conversation with one of our class readings. Can you draw on Harris, Schalk, Febos, or Loofbourow to help us consider how the text allows us to think about things like culture and ideology, language and identity, pleasure activism, the male glance, culture and gender, culture and emotions, etc.? How does your text help us extend on what these authors have said, offering further examples or a different understanding of the concepts they take up? (This handout offers a range of prompts and questions to help you draw on our class readings in your analysis.)

Your paper should follow MLA guidelines for formatting (spacing, font, first-page heading, title, header with last name and page number) and citations, both in-text and on a works cited page.