2009 BM2 Introduction to Anglophone Cultural Studies, Part 2

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See for part 1: 2008-09 BM2 Introduction to Anglophone Cultural Studies, Part 1

The individual Courses

  • Mo, 10:00 - 12:00, A06 0-001, Olaf Simons: 29 Participants
  • Mo, 18:00 - 20:00, Raum: A10 1-121a, Julia Meier
  • Tu, 12:00 - 14:00, A10 1-121, Annika McPherson
  • Tu, 16:00 - 18:00, A10 1-121a, Christina Meyer
  • We, 16:00 - 18:00, A11 1-101, Annika McPherson
  • We, 18:00 - 20:00, A06 0-001, Christina Meyer
  • We, 18:00 - 20:00, A10 1-121, Olaf Simons: 24 Participants

General Course Outline

Cultural studies have seen major developments over the last two decades. These developments have not only transformed approaches to research methodology, but are also questioning existing understandings of related matters such as disciplinary boundaries, academic topics, questions of periodization, epochs, and categorization. This is part 2 of the introductory module “Introduction to Anglophone Cultural Studies.” The “Übung” will be conducted in smaller groups and is designed to lead into practical work with materials. Reading suggestions and additional texts will be made available on the reserve shelf (“Handapparat”) in the library and/or on Stud-IP.

Objectives of this “Übung” are to prepare students for participation in critical debates surrounding the historical contexts and modes of analysis of different cultural products of the Anglophone world by

  • developing an understanding of the issues and questions dealt with in cultural studies
  • developing the necessary (practical) skills for historical contextualization and cultural analysis
  • applying these skills to selected topic areas and cultural products/phenomena in the context of historical developments and current critical debates

Students will become familiar with

  • a variety of discourses and different conceptions of ‘history’ and ‘culture’
  • historical and present day socio-cultural and political debates
  • critical schools of thought
  • media-specific forms and methods of cultural analysis

Students will

  • research and assess relevant database information
  • produce and discuss outlines of different source material and critical debates
  • apply media-specific approaches for contextualization and analysis
  • situate critical debates and methodological approaches
  • position a cultural product within its wider context and current relevance
  • formulate discourse- and context-specific questions for further research

This “Übung” is mandatory for BA students in Anglistik/Amerikanistik Prerequisites:

  • regular attendance
  • mandatory session for everybody: May 19, 2009!!!
  • two written assignments (60% of the overall grade for the module)

Language in class: English


  • Jasmin Bashale: Mo 10-12, S 2-204
  • Florian Gubisch: Mo 12-14, A10 1-121a
  • Manuel Saralidis: Mo 18 - 20, A01 0-009

Florian Gubisch's tutorial on Monday 18th will be in A 10 1-121a. See you there. Please print out film analysis handout.

Session 1: Organisation and Introduction


  • Methods and principles in Cultural Studies,
  • explaining the outline of this course
  • Text: Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustav Vassa, the African, Written By Himself. 1789
  • close reading of frontmatter & beginning of first chapter; structure of the book
  • “Nationallizenzen” and ECCO

Homework Read Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano (1789) either Norton Critical edition or pdf-files given on the page

  • Vol. I, Ch. V-VI, (better: at least up to VI)
  • Vol. II, Chaps. IX-X
  • close readings
  • read the Excerpt handout, look through the pdf files of the original text, gather information.

Session 2: Text Analysis

  • discussing the mandatory readings

Session 3: Historical Contextualization

  • clarifying the frameworks
  • group work (material distributed in class)

Materials to look at as course preparation

Two Spiritual Autobiographies
  • John Bunyan, The pilgrim's progress from this world to that which is to come delivered under the similitude of a dream, wherein is discovered the manner of his setting out, his dangerous journey, and safe arrival at the desired countrey London: Printed for Nath. Ponder, 1678. Wikipedia EEBO
  • An Account of Some Remarkable Passages in the Life of a Private Gentleman [...] to be communicated to the publick after his decease [...] the second edition, with additions from the author's original papers London: N. Cliff/ D. Jackson, 1711. ECCO
The three Parts of Robinson Crusoe
  • Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe part 1: The life and strange surprizing adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, mariner: who lived eight and twenty years, all alone in an un-inhabited. London: W. Taylor, 1719. ECCO
  • Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe part 2: The farther adventures of Robinson Crusoe; being the second and last part of his life, and of the strange surprizing accounts of his travels London: W. Taylor, 1719. ECCO
  • Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe part 3: Serious reflections during the life and surprising adventures of Robinson Crusoe: with his vision of the angelick world. Written by himself London, W. Taylor. 1720 ECCO


  • Get you share of the National license to access EEBO and ECCO. Click http://www.nationallizenzen.de to apply.
  • Research – where can I find material?
  • Group 1: open access (e.g. the Internet),
  • Group 2: limited access (e.g. online databases),
  • Group 3: on campus library,
  • Group 4: inter-library loan

Page for Equiano Research Results

Session 4: Research Methods


Exercises & Discussions

  • Evaluating the quality of research methods and materials
  • Research Exercise: GVK Plus


  • read the following article: Carretta, Vincent. “Defining a Gentleman: The Status of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa.” Language Sciences 22 (2000): 385-399. link

Session 5: How to Read Secondary Literature


Exercises & Discussions

  • Vincent Carretta's article
  1. structure
  2. argumentation
  3. how does the text deal with primary text?
  4. how does the article deal with a discussion that has evolved around the Equiano narrative?
  5. how do I position myself with respect to the article

Assignment 1: DEADLINE: MAY 19, 2009

  • Compile a Bibliography of secondary research on Olaudah Equiano, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, Or Gustav Vassa, the African, Written By Himself. 1789
  1. Give a structured analysis of this bibliography:
    • Are there noticeable temporal gaps - remarkable intervals of no research?
    • Is it possible to connect topics of research to individual decades?
  2. Select and digest one article of this list
    • Try to place the article in the overview you gave in question one
    • Give a brief summary of its content and main argument

Session 6: New Perspectives on Equiano

Exercises & Discussions

  • Embedding Equiano in the concepts and approaches of Postcolonial Studies, Diaspora (e.g. Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic)

Session 7: 9/11 Naudet Brothers, Media Screening, May 19, 2009

ATTENTION: mandatory for everybody Room: A14, Hörsaal 2 ab 18 Uhr s.t.!

Session 8: Documentary Film


Exercises & Discussions

  • Close analysis
  • Medium “documentary film” – compared to “feature film”; finding a definition; narrative structure? art? fiction?


  • Background reading

See the film online:

Session 9: Representations of 9/11


  • Link

Exercises & Discussions

  • Literature, film, artworks, photography…how does ‘culture’ deal with 9/11


  • Probing research methods – what can I find out about critical discussions on these events?

Session 10: Discourse

OS: Mon 15th/ Wed 17th

Our courses do not run exactly parallel. Olaf Simons is reading the articles collected in Roland Barthes, Mythologies (1957). You find questions and links on this page.

Tasks for next session:

Task 1: Cultural readings: Chose one of these four questions and think of a statement on

  1. the designs and messages of spaceships in films such as Star Trek (Federation, Borg, Klingons, DS9: Cardessian…) and Star Wars. (For inspiration, read Roland Barthes' article o the new Citroën DS and visit: http://memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Starship_class)
  2. the present fashion of stubbles (Dreitagebart) – what does such a beard mean at the moment, where do we find it (movies of your choice)
  3. The meaning/messages of wrist watches. What made you choose yours?
  4. The meaning/messages of mobile phones and ring tones.
  5. The meaning/messages of the Twin Towers (destroyed on 9/11/2001).

Task 2: The meaning of cultural and natural artefacts. Roland Barthes argued against the option that there is anything natural. Everything is/has a message as soon as we refer to it and the message can be read. The option is subversive as we know of established readings and as we can offer alternative readings; it is especially subversive since we have materials designed to be read (the throne is the king’s chair) and others which make statements we expect not to be read out aloud. (The way you dress – you expect your environment to simply accept your style, your present mood, your taste.) Think of different objects (cars, churches, burials, marriage ceremonies, watches, spoons, houses, underwear…) and reflect the options of intended, non intended, subversive readings.

Think of objects you would find interesting to interpret - and consider why.

Task 3: Discourse analysis. Discourse analysis is a theoretical approach of the 1970s and 1980s (still fashionable today). During the time of your studies you should have some idea of how the following writers changed our way of looking at things/ language/ discourses (Wittgenstein would have spoken about "Sprachspiele" instead of discourses): Ludwig Wittgenstein, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, Jean-Francoise Lyotard. Watch “Loose Change“ (at Youtube, at the film's webpage).

Session 11: Constructing/-edness of a Discourse


Exercises & Discussions

  • How is a discourse of terror(ism) formed? The terrorist themselves; media; reception
  • Comparative analysis of British newspapers
  • Goal of the discourse formation ?


  • to be announced

OS: Wed 24th/ Mon 29th

Look back on last session Wed 17th:
We interpreted watches and mobile phones and spoke about the discourses involved: gender, technological progress, freedom and outdoor, functionality, the discourse of aesthetics. We also considered intended and non intended readings: The advertisements offer connections to discourses, people relate to these discourses in a way that has to be analysed - the discourses do not exactly represent them, the Marlborough smoker is not a cowboy. There are aspirations and group signals to be noted (a Hippie cannot possibly wear this watch, use this mobile... a woman can wear a man's watch, a man cannot wear a woman's watch with the same freedom of options).

Non intended readings can be problematic. Readings can touch a person - you might not tell him or her, what you think about his/her choice. It makes a difference whether you know the person or not and whether you belong to the same group or not. You can hardly relate to a Punk's outfit: "that suits you well", is a misunderstanding. "You look like bullshit" is an affront. Punks, however, can freely speak about their outfits among themselves or in a shop that addresses Punks as customers.

It is interesting to be aware of these conditions as they determine the status of your reading of a thing. Your reading relates to other circulating, intended and non-intended readings. It is interesting to cross borders and to risk one's readings with an awareness of the other readings. If you can relate to them you will get beyond just offering your personal reading.

We discussed the option to speak about "discourses". Discourses relate to each other (as we saw when reading watches and mobiles), they relate to other discourses: technology freaks tend to be males (gender discourse), they tend to like science fiction (a literary discourse) etc.

We took a look at Loose Change (2006). The film belonged into discourses: it deals with 9/11 (thematic discourse), it is a documentary (generic discourse), it is conspiracy theory (a discourse of poltical implications).

We took a look at aspects Loose Change shared with the Naudet-documentary: visual materials are re-interpreted, fragments of news casts are integrated here and there, both films create tensions, they play with audiences. Both film use black frames with text and as structural elements (an option silent movies used in previous times).

Questions to prepare
If we read discourses (gender, taste etc.) as options offered on a market:

  • For whom is it interesting to choose a conspiracy theory - rather than a mainstream belief.
  • How does a conspiracy theory relate to other discourses?
  • If a conspiracy theory is subversive - is it subversive in the same way with Roland Barthes' readings of cultural artefacts. Can we offer subversive readings of conspiracy theories in the fashion Barthes offered?
  • If there is a special US-American climate for conspiracy theories - why is that the case:?

New object to take a look at

You find on this page four articles dealing with comic. Chose one of them (maybe letters A-F: Versluys (2006), letters G-K: Whitlock (2006), Letters L-R: Paul (2007), Letters S-Z: Chute (2007)) consider what the articles do with the object.

For more information on how to describe readings of comics see Eisner (2006) and Schüwer (2002).

Session 12: From Public to Academic Debates


  • Link

Exercises & Discussions

  • The terror attacks in the framework of multiculturalism
  • Developing theses/statements
  • Structure of an (argumentative) essay


  • to be announced

Interesting Side Note: The Fachschaft Philosophie is organizing a Media Screening on Monday, 6/29/2009: "Wittgenstein" (Presented by Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Büttemeyer)

Session 13: Round-up


Exercises & Discussions

  • Preparations for Assignment 2
  • Evaluation, feedback



Assignment 2 (take-home):

Argumentative essay (approx. 4 computer-typed pages)

Your research essay has to state and develop a thesis/an argument based on a topic of your choice relating to either part 1 (Olaudah Equiano) or part 2 (9/11 and 7/7) of the "Übung." While developing a thesis/statement on a topic of your choice consider the following questions:

  • What do you want to take issue with and why?
  • What is your argument?
  • How does your statement/thesis relate to the current scholarly debate? What is your position?

Based on your research of relevant primary and secondary sources, and with reference to the discussions and exercises during the semester you have to explain why it is important to take up one particular issue and how this issue relates to the current scholarly debate. Cite from the narrative to back up your answers.

Example: My contention is that in his autobiographical Narrative, Olaudah Equiano mimicks the voice of the colonized/other to subvert the British colonial – eurocentric – discourse. I agree with xyz, who claims that…However, I would go a step further an argue that Equiano’s Narrative is…

Format your essay according to the style sheet; you have to indicate quotations and give references, and you need to compile a bibliography at the end of your essay according to the style sheet. For further reference: Aczel, Richard. How to Write an Essay. Stuttgart et al.: Klett, 2006.

Assignment 2: DEADLINE: August 01, 2009