French 777

Winter Semester 1996

Cultural Studies and Literary Analysis: Socio-cultural Semiotics

Charles J. Stivale
361 Manoogian, 577-0970

Grading and Assignments

In a seminar of this sort, the grading element of the course seems particularly inappropriate since this seminar functions as a workshop- for the participants' critical and professional concerns. However, as one nearly inevitable facet of our professional life is, in fact, the assignment of a "final" grade to students' performance, the following criteria will apply for this course:

-- Regular attendance and active participation (40%): a broad array of texts are designated as assigned readings in this course, and several others are "merely" recommended. In order for students to participate actively each week in class discussions and, better still, to raise questions about these readings, clearly each participant must complete the reading assignment beforehand. As for attendance, since I have designed this seminar with -participants'benefit- in mind, repeated absence means that a student has not fulfilled his/her implicit contract both to fellow participants and to him/herself, i.e. to reflect on the readings and to share the fruit of that reflection and questioning in active and regular dialogue. And please understand: dialogue -can and does- include attentive listening and absorption of others' discussion as well as direct intervention.

Concerning attendance in the supplementary "fourth-hour" sessions, I recognize in advance that scheduling to accommodate all participants may become a problem, and hence I have determined that attendance at these sessions will be voluntary. However, on the three Fridays for which I have invited author-scholars to provide examples of their research and then to discuss these essays with us (i.e. to entertain students' questions on their work), I hope that all participants can make a special effort to attend. Furthermore, as I will publicize these supplementary meetings as open to any interested colleagues, I encourage participants also to discuss the supplementary (and also the primary) program with anyone who might be interested in the material.

-- -Two written essays- (20%): a "mythology", on a topic that each participant may select (in consultation with me if deemed appropriate) employing the models of "mythologies" (Barthes, Bérubé, Eco) that we will have examined in the first weeks of the semester; and; a -take-home mid-term-, i.e. a set of essay topics from which each participant will select one (or two, yet to be determined) for written reflection. In terms of length of these assignments, the "mythology" may be quite brief, but should provide an insightful reflection on the particular subject/object of critical reflection.

As for the take-home mid-term essay, while 5-7 pages typed (or word-processed) would seem reasonable, the only set length is that which the essayist will decide is appropriate to respond adequately and completely to the selected topic, subject to my own critical assessment subsequently.

-- -Critical synopsis- of a selected reading (or readings, depending on the size of our course) for a list of cultural studies essays (attached) (10%): during weeks 7-9 (prior to spring break), participants will read and then comment in class upon a selected essay (or two), focusing on a) the essays purpose, b) the strategies and steps of the essay's analysis, and c) whether or not, according to your reading, the author achieved his/her goal, justifying this assessment. The grade for this synopsis will consist of the average between the oral part and a written follow-up, to be turned in no more than a week after the oral synopsis.

-- A -written abstract- (5%) of the participant's selected research topic: during the semester, each participant will have selected a topic for a final research paper (cf. next grade category), for which each participant will submit a written abstract, -no later- than prior to spring break, preferably earlier.

-- A -final research paper- (25%): The topic of this research paper may be an analysis of a literary text (chosen from the participant's discipline) or of a cultural "text" more broadly defined. While the mode of analysis may correspond to any approach that the candidate deems appropriate, the seminar's focus on "socio-cultural semiotics" would orient the analysis, whatever the selected text, toward approaches we have considered during the semester, in conjunction with approaches that participants may already be exploring from work undertaken in previous courses.

The research paper should correspond to the MLA Bibliographical format, be type-written or word-processed, and have a 10-page minimum length (excluding end-notes and bibliography).


In order to shift the seminar's focus toward the participants' reading/writing practices, four (or five) sessions from Thurs, Feb. 22 to Thurs, March 7, will consist of oral synopses and critiques (15-20 minutes maximum each) of essays selected from -Cultural Studies- and Bérubé (cf. list below).

As early in the semester as possible, each participant should peruse the essays indicated and decide which ones would best suit development a) of a brief synopsis of the chosen essay's major arguments and critical strategies, and b) of an assessment and critique of how you judge the author to construct his/her argument, particularly as an approach to "cultural studies."

You may make your selection as early in the semester as you wish, and these choices will be apportioned on a first come, first choose basis. Hence, the later the selection, the less likely it will be the first choice. However, you may also propose to do a synopsis/critique of an essay not on this list, but with the following conditions:

-- the text selected must be appropriate in subject and length for a concise synopsis/critique;

-- you must discuss the selection of the essay with the seminar organizer as early as possible in the semester (no later than Feb 8);

-- you provide copies of the selected text to other seminar participants at least a week in advance- of the oral presentation.

List of essays for Synopses/Critiques

Essays from -Cultural Studies- by: Berland, Cherbram-Dernersesia, Fiske, Frith, Gilroy, Giroux. Grover, Haraway, Hooks, Kipnis, Mani, Mercer, Morris, Penley, Probyn, Ross, Stallybrass, Steadman.Warner

Bérubé, ch. 7, "Paranoia in a Vacuum", ch. 8, "It's Renaissance Time", ch. 9, "Disuniting America Again"