ENG 226: Popular Culture Syllabus

Dr. Joe Allen                                                                   English 226:

Phone: 431-8451                                                             Popular Culture           


Web page:

Office: Hudson 408M

Office Hours:            Mon -- 10:00-10:50

Wed -- 9:00-10:00

Tues/Thurs -- 8:30-9:20 and by appointment


Required Texts:

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

No Logo by Naomi Klein

The Wire Season 4 (DVD or other)

Suggested Texts:

Harrington & Bielby: Popular Culture: Production and Consumption

The Little, Brown Compact Handbook (or another up-to-date handbook)


My obligations for the class include:

1. To know the subject material and to prepare a worthwhile, interesting class each day we meet.

2. To meet the following objectives:                                     

                        a. analyze and evaluate various forms and aesthetics of popular culture.
b. investigate how popular culture is produced and consumed            

c. assess how popular culture is represented and what social identities and/or ideologies are part of its representation.

d. understand how popular culture is circulated and regulated as well as explain how popular culture reflects and shapes social forces.

e. develop essential skills, including critical thinking and inference, from the General Education Objectives

f. introduce methods of understanding, interpreting, and evaluating works of popular culture in a particular form.

g. foster an ability to engage in lifelong education by learning to acquire knowledge and to use it for intelligent ends.

3. To be available for consultation.

4. To take you into account as a learner and as a person.

5. To specify my expectations as clearly as I can.


Your obligations for the class include:

                  1. To attend class. It is imperative that you attend every session.

                  2. To attend class on time.

                  3. To actively participate in class activities.

                  4. To read assigned material thoroughly before the first day of discussion.

                  5. To ask questions.

                  6. To complete all assignments on time.

                  7. To respect the other members of the class.



10% -- participation, response papers, homework

10% -- quizzes

50% -- three essays

10% -- in-class midterm

20% -- final



All assigned material must be thoroughly read before the first day of discussion, so you will be able to fully participate in all class activities. Failure to actively participate in class discussions will negatively impact your course grade.



Missing three or more classes will lower your grade accordingly and may cause you to fail the course.


Arriving late to class counts as a partial absence. If you enter after attendance has been taken, turn in a slip of paper with your name, date, and time entered.


Late assignments:

One grade will be deducted for each day an assignment is late. Any absence is not an excuse.


All assignments must be handed in to complete the class. Failure to hand in all assignments will result in a failing course grade.


No makeup quizzes.


Also, if you miss class, it is your responsibility to complete the work before the next class.



According to the Writing Program, published annually by the Ball State University Department of English, "ALWAYS GIVE CREDIT IN YOUR TEXT TO THE SOURCE FROM WHICH INFORMATION, IDEAS, OR WORDING IS DRAWN. ALWAYS USE QUOTATION MARKS FOR WORDS, HOWEVER FEW OR MANY" (26).


Plagiarized work will receive no credit.

Refer to a handbook for information regarding MLA style.


Please turn the sound off all cell phones.

No texting during class. Texting in class will reduce participation credit.





Tentative Project Calendar                            226                                        Spring  2014

Week 1 -- 1/13-1/15

Course introduction; What is popular culture?

Production of Culture

Handout from Fredric Dannen’s Hit Men

Handout: Harrington and Bielby: “Constructing the Popular: Cultural Production and Consumption”

Week 2 -- 1/22

No Class Monday

Eric Schlosser: Fast Food Nation (Ch 1 & 2)

Week 31/27-1/29

Fast Food Nation (Ch 3, 4)

Naomi Klein: No Logo (Ch 1 & 2)

Week 42/3-2/5

The Persuaders (documentary)

Ellen Ruppel Shell: “The Outlet Gambit” (handout)

Fast Food Nation (Ch 5, 6)

Week 5 -- 2/10-2/12

Fast Food Nation (Ch 7, 8, 9)

No Logo (Ch 9)

Week 6 -- 2/19

No class Monday

Fast Food Nation (pages 255-88 in Ch 10)

Week 72/24-2/26

Essay #1 due

Four Definitions

Week 8 -- 3/3-3/5

Cultural Studies:

The Wire: Season Four


Spring Break

Week 9 -- 3/17-3/19

The Wire: Season Four

Handout from David Simon’s The Corner

Week 10 -- 3/24-3/26

The Wire: Season Four


Week 11 – 3/31-4/2

The Wire: Season Four


Week 12 -- 4/7-4/8

Essay #2 due

The Circuit of Culture

Handout: Lawrence Lessig’s “Piracy” (62-77) from Free Culture

Week 134/14-4/16

All from class web page:

Group One:

The Music Man by Lynn Hirschberg (pages bottom 4 to 5) Please note the change

"Spotify is the Coolest Music Service You Can't Use" by Neal Pollack

"The Long Tail" by Chris Anderson

Group 2

Recommended: "What was, is, and will be Popular" by Adam Sternbergh

 "Defining and Demanding an Artist's Fair Shake in the Internet Age" by Ben Sisario

"Inconspicuous Consumption" by Jeffrey Rosen 

Week 14 -- 4/21-4/23

Group 3:

"Is Google Making Us Stupid?" by Nicholas Carr

"Multiscreen Mad Men"

Two Relationships to the Public Domain by Negativland (part 1 -- first nine sections + intro)

Group 4:

Girl Talk


Week 154/28-4/30

Group 5:

Lessig handout #2 on Harry Potter Wars

"When Funny Goes Viral" by Rob Walker


Essay #3 due

Week 16 -- 5/5-5/7




Other Topics Covered:

definitions of popular culture

issues and debates in the field of popular culture

multidisciplinary approaches to popular culture

encoding and decoding

ideology and cultural myths

ownership and appropriation

the cultural processes of representation, identity, production, consumption, circulation, and regulation

                issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class