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2022 Spring


Ted Turnau
For information about registration please contact our admissions.

A survey of theories of popular culture and media from the late 19th century (Matthew Arnold) to postmodern theory (Michel Foucault).

Songs, TV shows, movies, and magazines form much of the world we live in, our environment. But what do they all mean? We need to understand that, because popular culture and media influence us all. This course will introduce you to scholars who have thought about these issues, and to their very different answers about what the popular culture and media are, and how best to understand them.


We humans enjoy making meanings and sharing them with others.  And these meanings have a lot of power to influence us, sometimes in ways we don’t even notice.  What is the best way to understand popular culture and the media?  This course will introduce you to several thinkers – some philosophers, some psychologists (at least one), some anthropologists, and others – who have thought long and hard about the media and popular culture.  They have different answers about what is culture and media, how do they make meaning, what is the best ways to interpret their messages?  And what do these theories tell us about what it means to be human, what is really real?  If these kinds of questions interest you, and you would like know more about the media and popular culture and what it all means, then this course is for you.

Here is the course outline:

1. Introduction

2. Unit 2 - The Culture and Civilization Tradition

Also known as Leavisism...

3. Unit 3 - Marxist Approaches

This unit covers 3 schools of Marxist cultural studies: Classical Marxism, the Frankfurt School, and Neo-Gramscian Analysis

4. Unit 4 - Culturalism

5. Unit 5 - Structuralism 1 (Saussure, Levi-Strauss, Wright)

6. Unit 6 - Structuralism 2 (Barthes)

7. Unit 7 - Poststructuralism 1: Derrida and Althusser

8. Unit 8 - Poststructuralism 2: Lacan and Foucault

9. Unit 9 - A Theological Approach to Popular Culture

10. Course Evaluation Instructions

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