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Essay 1

Due: Feb. 24

This assignment is an opportunity for you to participate in the debate about the validity and impact of popular culture. Your job is to “channel” the attitudes and opinions toward popular culture represented by the Culture & Civilization tradition (Arnold, Leavis, Macdonald) and the Culturalism perspective (Williams, Hall & Whannel, Levine) into your own analysis of an example of popular media.

Your job: write a “point/counterpoint” style editorial that considers any specific example of popular media (such as a song, a television show, a film, a book, or such) of your choosing. Note that it’s up to you to figure out what “popular” might mean from these perspectives. Write two brief (400-500 words) opinion pieces analyzing this example from the two perspectives of Culture & Civilization and Culturalism, trying to answer the question “what is the impact of this example of popular media on American society?” from each perspective. You should not necessarily mimic the writing style of these theorists, but rather demonstrate that you understand the basic attitude and set of themes that each approach uses to discuss the impact of popular culture on society. The writing style should be appropriate for publication in a newspaper editorial page, not necessarily an academic audience – no citations are necessary, although if you do quote from a reading, make sure it’s clear what your source is (e.g. “as Matthew Arnold wisely wrote…”).

A strong pair of essays will make compelling arguments on both sides about the impact your chosen example of popular media has on American culture, demonstrating a clear understanding of the key ideas and approaches exemplified by these two theories. Additionally, you should take this opportunity to be a bit more polemic and forceful in your writing style than you might generally for an academic paper – try to convince readers of each opinion using all the rhetorical skills you can muster!

Good luck and have fun!

Remember to sign the honor code pledge on all papers!

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