LTTH 150 (A00) - TOPICS IN CRITICAL THEORY
Instructor: Bryan Reynolds
Culture, ethnicity, aesthetics, and ideology, often powerfully combined in the concept "subculture," play a crucial role in the development of American identities. This course explores how and why culture is performed as a means by which to define, express, and maintain social identity. Subcultures, such as Beats, hippies, slam poets, bikers, punks, Goths, activists, surfers, skaters, drag kings, bodybuilders, strippers, modern dancers, hip-hop enthusiasts, and gangstas, etc., have importantly formed and thrived in the United States. Our focus will be less on subcultural affiliations - "community cultures" - based on ethnic/national differences and origins (African-, Italian-, Chinese-, Irish-American, etc.) than on the aesthetics, ideology, politics, desire, affect, and consumerism reciprocally informed by "alternative" or "counter" cultural formations (not dominant in any standard demographic or regional registrar). We will engage various theories of culture, subjectivity, identity, aesthetics, and consumerism from a range of disciplines, though there will be emphasis on approaches from performance studies, cognitive science, cultural studies, and social semiology, as we explore the value and influence of American subcultures, especially as they are fetishized, commodified, and - most importantly - performed.