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Cultural Studies

Students interested in contemporary cultures, both popular and high art, are invited to consider concentrating in cultural studies. Sometimes referred to as the “folklore of industrial societies,” cultural studies analyzes the construction of what is popular and valued in a given time and place, exploring the implications of extending the term “culture” to include the activities and reactions of ordinary people, those traditionally excluded from elite culture. In cultural studies, human interactions and behavior, as well as all sorts of visual, written, and oral expression, are interpreted in light of their underlying roots in the world from which they emerge.

Arising out of philosophical crises in the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences in the 1970s, cultural studies is premised on the conviction that everything human has meaning and reflects particular economic, political, interpersonal, and cultural circumstances. It aims to discern those connections, as well as to highlight the forces that create difference, division, and alienation. Consequently, it uses a range of theories and methodologies—notably Marxism, feminism, deconstruction, psychoanalysis, and ethnography, as well as aesthetic theory—to interpret particular activities, trends, and individual works. The close reading of these works and behaviors illuminates underlying human circumstances, at the same time that analysis of those shaping conditions enables students to see what can be done, thought, and said at a particular time. Increasingly, cultural studies has included a focus on the emotional and interpretive reactions of readers and audiences.


Students interested in this concentration should take the core course, Anthropology 200 Introduction to Cultural Studies.

Further work in the concentration should balance theoretical courses with those that focus on particular phenomena, moments, movements, genres, or works.

To satisfy the minimum requirements, students must take at least six courses, two of which must be at the 300-level or above, for a minimum total of 20 credits.

The six courses should include the core course, and at least one of the theoretical courses listed below or an appropriate alternative approved by the major advisor.

In addition, the student’s program must include at least two courses focused on different particular cultural phenomena, samples of which are listed below. Students should propose suitable choices to the major advisor for approval.

The two additional courses in the concentration may focus either on a theoretical approach, on particular phenomena, or an integration of the two.

Required Core Course

Anthropology 200 Introduction to Cultural Studies

Theoretical Courses

(at least one is required)
Art History 212 Theories of Photography
Art History 309 Lacan and Visual Pleasure
Literature 321 Literary Theory
Social Science 302 The Foucault Effect
Women’s Studies 304 Doing Theory: Feminist, Postcolonial, Queer

Studies of Culture and Cultural Phenomena

(at least two are required)
Anthropology 212 CP Anthropology Goes to the Movies
Anthropology 214 CP Native American Religions
Art History 216 CP African American Art and Thought
Art History 220 CP Imagining the Harem
French 216 French Food, Culture, and Literature
French 318 CP Francophone Literature I
French 319 CP Francophone Literature II
Intercultural Studies 313 CP Liberation Theology and Latin America
Linguistics 218m Language and Gender
Literature 232 The Harlem Renaissance
Literature 233 Modern American Fiction: Disturbing the Peace
Literature 237 Home on the Range: Western Films and Fictions
Literature 238 American Fiction: 1950–2000
Literature 239 Contemporary American Poetry: Constructs of the Self
Literature 319 The Theater of the Absurd
Literature 330 The Inklings
Music 218/318 CP Jazz: An American Encounter
Spanish 211 20th-Century Latin American Short Story
Spanish 212 CP Latin American Novellas: Love and Other Demons
Spanish 213 CP Passion, Trickery, and Revenge: Latin American Detective Novels
Studio Art 225/325 Survey of Documentary Film
Women’s Studies 213 Women Writing Activism: Changing the World
Women’s Studies 218m CP Women’s Words in China, Japan, and Korea

Courses Integrating Theory and Culture

Art History 211 Picasso’s Art: Erotics and Politics
Art History 218/318 Critical Issues in Contemporary Photography
Arts 212 Imagining the Self: Autobiography and Biography in Creative Expression
Arts 225 The Creative Process in the Arts
Geography 215m The Agricultural World: Land, Food, Sustainability
Literature 260 History, Politics, and the Novel
Literature 270 CP Latin American Women
Writing Resistance
Literature 293m Media Studies Practicum I
Literature 294m Media Studies Practicum II
Music 311 Theory V: Approaches to 20th-Century Music
Studio Art 307/407 Documentary Photography: History and Practice
Women’s Studies 270 CP Caribbean Women Writing Resistance

Recent Senior Theses

“Escola de Samba! Examining Brazilian Music in America”
“Women Like Us: Non-Mainland Writers”
“Oh the Places You’ll Go! A Study-Abroad Plan for Simon’s Rock”
“Get Your Hand Out of My Pocket! Choosing Language and Languaging Choice”
“Boom-Boom, Beedee Bee, and Tiny: Representation of African-Americans and African-American Conditions”
“Chaotic Terrain: Mapping the Uncharted Territory of Comics”
“Representations of Female Desire”
“Structure in Experimental Communities”
“Playing at War: The Genesis of the Role-Playing Phenomenon”
“Dancing to a Different Drummer: African-American Protest Art during World War II”


Asma Abbas, Gabriel Asfar, Nancy Bonvillain, Joan DelPlato, Peter Filkins, Hal Holladay, John Myers, Bernard Rodgers, Mileta Roe, Maryann Tebben, Laurence Wallach, Nancy Yanoshak
Faculty Contact: Joan DelPlato