North American Popular Culture

Senior Assist. Prof. Dr Alexandra Glavanakova
Lectures: 30
Seminars: 30
ECTS credits: 6

The course studies the production, dissemination and reception of the popular culture of the USA and Canada in a global context. Globalization is the buzzword of our current historical moment. Why is globalization any different from older forms of internationalization that have marked modernity? Do North American media and popular culture artefacts bring cultures together or do they simply Americanize everyone? How does this spectacle of sameness and replication – promoted in the Hollywood formula film, in the rush to mallification or in Walt-Disneysation – connect to the differences in local cultural practices and identities today? How American can you get?
In the course we will work through these questions by analyzing visual and new media forms (films, animation, cartoons, TV, tabloid culture, Internet culture) as well as theoretical and journalistic texts. Special attention will be paid to North American popular culture as a highly politicized domain of social life where political ideas and meanings are conveyed through an industry often controlled by political and economic elites but also contested. While ideologies and belief systems are directly instilled through the official institutions, such as schools, governments, etc, popular culture also serves to advance specific values and a definite mind-set. Television, literature, the movies, the World Wide Web reinforce the power of the dominant groups in a society, but can also be sources of innovation and change. Accordingly special attention will be paid to the challenge popular culture presents to social organization and the values of the establishment. The course introduces a variety of critical approaches to the study of popular culture and develops skills for critical thinking and analytical writing.