Challenging Theory

Over the course of the semester, we have read some challenging texts which present theories of how society and culture work at certain times. Dick Hebdige, in particular, describes two different theories: Modernism and Postmodernism. His article is an attempt to answer the question: What is Postmodernism? As Hebdege himself, notes, however, his article answers this in many ways but is not definitive. He even speaks of the meandering nature of his article and its inability to provide a clear answer to his question:

“What follows is an attempt to re-present my own ambivalence vis-a-vis the prospect(s) of the Post: to engage with some of the issues raised in debates on postmodernism, to cruise the text of postmodernism without forfeiting the possibility of another place, other positions, other scenarios, different languages. In what I take to be the postmodern spirit, I shall try to reproduce on paper the flow and grain of television discourse switching back and forth between different channels.” (Hebdige 332-333)

Where would you challenge Hebdige’s view of Postmodernism or Modernism? Where do you think he needs to be more clear in his argument? What use (if at all) is his engagement with these themes? In your response to one or more of these questions, please provide evidence from his text. You are welcome to pose questions about his text as well and/or respond to the questions of a classmate, if you think they are substantive and need to be addressed.

High Culture Today

We have read a number of critics who are concerned with high culture. Some are concerned it is disappearing; others are concerned it is not correctly understood; others assume that we should become active participants in  culture(s) in order to actively shape it/them; while still others see the need to stem the rise of mass culture in order to prevent the corruption of high culture. How do these texts stand in relationship to today? In what aspects of these works (quotes are welcomed), do you see reflections of contemporary discussions on and crisis within culture(s)? Choose one point in these texts and explain how it connects to issues of today.

Choosing a Literature List

Which of the following lists of literature do you agree with most and why? Consider the content of the lists, the criteria of selection, and audience when answering this question. Please give solid reasons for your choice.

  1. Cambridge Guide to Literature in English
  2. The Nobel Prize in Literature
  3. The Pulitzer Prizes for Letters, Drama, and Music
  4. Oprah’s Book Club
  5. The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces
  6. Cambridge Companion Series in Literature and Classics
  7. The Great Books Foundation
  8. St. John’s College