For freshman composition courses. From Barbie to the Internet, the Simpsons to the malls, this engaging text on pop culture helps students develop critical and analytical skills and write clear prose while reading, thinking, and writing about subjects they find inherently interesting. Spanning a full range of topics, it provides key reading and writing strategies, and contains essays addressing a topic generally and then explores related material in depth. In addition to the readings, each section begins with a catchy cultural artifact that leads students into a detailed introduction, discussion questions, essay topics, and suggestions for further reading and research.
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Following a general introduction that discusses and illustrates approaches to reading and writing about popular culture, chapters focus on: Advertising, Television, Popular Music, Cyberculture, Sports, Movies, and Leisure. The Third Edition features:
THE NEW COMMON CULTURE, Third edition, WEBSITE expands on the text by mirroring each of its chapters and providing an interactive environment with additional exercises and links to related websites.
When we started teaching composition courses that examined television, pop music, movies, and other media-generated artifacts, we looked for a text that would cover a full range of topics in the field of popular culture from a variety of theoretical perspectives. We discovered that no satisfactory text existed, and therefore we began putting together assignments and reading materials to meet our needs. From this compilation Common Culture emerged.
The more we've taught writing courses based on popular culture, the more convinced we've become that such courses are especially appealing for students and effective in improving their critical thinking, reading, and writing skills. Students come into the writing classroom already immersed in the culture of Beavis and Butthead, Benetton, Beastie Boys, and Barry Bonds. The advantage, then, is that we don't have to "sell" the subject matter of the course and can concentrate on the task at hand—namely, teaching students to think critically and to write clear and effective prose. Obviously, a course that panders to the lowest common denominator of students' taste would be a mindless, unproductive enterprise for all concerned. However, the underlying philosophy of a pop culture-based writing course is this: By reading, thinking, and writing about material they find inherently interesting, students develop their critical and analytical skills—skills which are, of course, crucial to their success in college.
Although students are already familiar with the many aspects of popular culture, few have directed sustained, critical thought to its influence or implications—that is, to what shopping malls might tell them about contemporary culture or to what they've actually learned from watching "The Jerry Springer Show." Because television shows, advertisements, and music videos, for example, are highly crafted artifacts, they are particularly susceptible to analysis; and because so much in contemporary culture is open to interpretation and controversy, students enjoy the opportunity to articulate and argue for their own interpretations of objects and institutions in the world around them.
Although popular culture is undeniably a sexy (or, at least, lively) subject, it has also, in the past decade, become accepted as a legitimate object of academic discourse. While some may contend that it's frivolous to write a dissertation on "The Brady Bunch," most scholars recognize the importance of studying the artifacts and institutions of contemporary life. Popular culture is a rich field of study, drawing in researchers from a variety of disciplines. Because it is also a very inviting field of study for students, a textbook that addresses this subject in a comprehensive and challenging way will be especially appealing both to them and to their writing teachers.
Common Culture, third edition, contains an introductory chapter that walks students through one assignment—in this case, focusing on the Barbie doll—with step-by-step instruction in reading carefully and writing effectively. The chapters that follow open with a relevant and catchy cultural artifact (for example, a cartoon, an ad, an album cover) that leads into a reader-friendly, informative introduction; a selection of engaging essays on an issue of current interest in the field of pop culture; carefully constructed reading and discussion questions; and writing assignments after each reading and at the end of the chapter.
Common Culture approaches the field of popular culture by dividing it into its constituent parts. The book contains chapters on advertising, television, music, cyberculture, sports, movies, and leisure. Most of the chapters are divided into two parts: the first presents essays that address the topic generally, while the second offers essays that explore a specific aspect of the topic in depth. For example, in the chapter on advertising, the essays in the first group discuss theories and strategies of advertising, while later essays explore images of women and men in ads.
We've purposely chosen readings that are accessible and thought-provoking, while avoiding those that are excessively theoretical or jargon-ridden. The readings in this book have the added advantage of serving as good models for students' own writing; they demonstrate a range of rhetorical approaches, such as exposition, analysis, and argumentation, and they offer varying levels of sophistication and difficulty in terms of content and style. Similarly, the suggested discussion and writing topics move from relatively basic concerns to tasks that require a greater degree of critical skill. Because of this range, instructors using Common Culture can easily adapt the book to meet the specific needs of their students.
As California instructors and therefore participants in the growth-and-awareness movement, we'd like first to thank each other for never straying from the path of psychic goodwill and harmony, and then to thank the universe for raining beneficence and light upon this project. And while on the subject of beneficence and light, we'd like to thank our current Editor-in-Chief, Leah Jewell, and our original editor, Nancy Perry, both of whom radiate these qualities and without whose wisdom, largesse, and good humor we would have fallen into deep despair. Thanks, furthermore, to Mark Gallaher, our development editor for the first edition; Harriett Prentiss, who helped us with the second; and our present editor Vivian Garcia, who patiently shepherded us through the third. We'd like to thank the following reviewers of the second edition: James Morrison, North Carolina State University; Brian K. Reed, Bethane-Cookman College; David D. Moser, Butler County Community College; Joe P. Wiggins, University of Idaho; Wendy Secrist, University of Idaho; and Susan A. Nash, Capital University.
We want to thank Muriel Zimmerman, former Director of the Writing Program at UCSB, for lending moral and intellectual support to the original project, and Judith Kirscht, our current director. Johanna Blakely and Bonnie Beedles suggested several of the readings we included here, while Evelyn Chiaverini and Rita Raley assisted in formulating endnotes and end-of-reading questions. Thanks also to Larry Behrens and Sheridan Blau for lending their expertise in the area of textbook publishing.
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