Reading and Re-Reading Culture

How is it you have come to be who you are? What are some of the images/ideas/events that you have grown up “reading” and viewing and that continue to impact your “subject formation?” How have various cultural gazes/ideologies affected how you see/know yourself and others? How have language, symbols, race, class, gender, cultural context and power served as lenses through which you read and re-read to construct meaning?What do the images you consume “mean”? What ideas are being “sold”? What is being said about American culture? What is being said by others about the text? What is being said about you?

For 15 weeks, we’ve selected texts to facilitate thinking about these concepts. For the remainder of the semester, it’s your turn. Your final project requires much thinking, watching, thinking again, re-viewing, researching, and eventually writing four brief (one to two page) papers, collecting and linking to texts from other thinkers to support your ideas, and posting all of this on your own wiki. (The weight of the assignment equates to your argument and analysis paper combined.)

You may include traditional texts (likes books or poems) to explore these theoretical questions. You must include the kinds of texts we have focused on this semester---texts that challenge the notion of what it means to “read,” like videos, print advertisements, commercials, clips from television shows or movies, movie trailers, posters, magazine covers, cereal boxes, websites, screen shots, video game packaging, etc.

*There will be four categories on your wiki for which you will create content. Your content for each category will include the brief paper, a link to an interesting article about your idea, and related TEXTS which you capture and post for each topic.

*For each category, it is required that notions of representation, subjectivity, cultural criticism, ideology be explicitly addressed, using that now-familiar terminology. Inherent to that analysis will be attention to race, class, gender, orientation, power, etc.

*It must be made clear why you linked to the article and the visuals – photos, ads, videos, interviews, etc. – must also illuminate the thesis/argument you are making with each paper. (If you feel your audience – our class and some other English teachers – will not understand what you are doing, then you need to try harder to make your points with your images, and/or add an “explanatory addendum” to each section.) We will, of course, advise you – and so will your classmates – as we conference about our “draft wikis” as we go along.

Please note: your wiki may include four distinct topics that stand alone. Or, they may connect to each other through link as you discover relationships and layers to your thinking. Further, all four papers may be related thematically (for example, covering sports, gaming, Title IX, militarism, etc.)

The Categories—Choose 3 + Required Category

Growing Up Female/Male in America in 2011

What are the messages that you receive – as viewed through images/texts? What are the expectations for conformity? What can be the consequences for non-conformity? How are we affected by gender policing? What texts challenge our notions of gender? What texts affirm what we already believe about gender?

Representation of Power

How is power portrayed in images today? What does it mean to be powerful? What can we learn about power by examining the stories, images, and artistic representations of power in the media? How are narratives about power—who has it, who doesn’t, who’s entitled to it, who has too much of it, how it should be wielded--being constructed?

Representation of Difference

What messages do you notice in your selected text about issues of difference? How are race, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, or dis/ability represented? Are these messages inclusive or excluding? Do any of these representations of difference lead to “othering”? What might be the consequence?

The Political Landscape

While any of these topics is inherently political, for this category you’ll choose a text that purposefully and explicitly addresses a political stance. How does the text use language, rhetoric, and imagery and target audience to make its stance? In what ways do they work to get their message across? How do we make sense of those messages? To what degree are these images provocative? Persuasive/effective?

Connection to another student wiki--Required

One of the most important threads of the second semester has been that no ideology exists in a vacuum. We are connected to/influenced by others’ ideas, beliefs, thinking. You will find some intersecting point (a point of contact, contrast, conflict) between your own work and the work of another ETS student, and make that intersection clear by a) linking to it on your own wiki and b) providing commentary about the connections.

The Process

You are all familiar with the “mother of all wikis” – Wikipedia – so you know how they work at some level. Most colleges are asking students to use wikis in their courses (along with Blackboard). Wikis allow for more/easier content creation and creativity (once you figure out how to insert “widgets.” We’ll have some time set aside initially to learn this together.) The wiki page works much like the word processing templates that you are used to. I will help you join our wikispace, and then get out of your way. Wikis encourage “playful productivity” – and so do I. I will show you some of last year’s successful projects, and you will teach yourself and your classmates much as you “play” at figuring it all out. The wonderful thing, of course, is that though you will be given lots of class time (about 4-5 full blocks) you can access “your wiki” wherever you are in the world, as long as there is a computer and internet access there.

We will be doing work in class – reading pertinent articles, viewing helpful videos, and discussing directions to take – as well as spending time at the computers, on our wikis for the rest of the semester. These Final Wiki Projects – all papers/parts of the assignment – are DUE TUESDAY, MAY 31, 2011!!!!!!! Presentations to the class will begin that day.

As a start, we’ll go the computer lab, log on to and start an account. You MUST make your username easily recognizable to me---1st or last name, please. No “sweetpuppy386” or “lacrossebroxxx” for this project!!! Then post your username on Edmodo to me so I can invite you to our class! (Or, you know, just walk over and tell it to me!) external image usebody1.jpg