Pop Cultural Studies

Friday, 20 March, 2015

Last year, Rutgers University in the US inaugurated a new course of study called ‘Politicising Beyoncé’. The Internet experienced a minor haemorrhage as a result. The announcement presaged a surfeit of online articles exposing other similarly left-of-field studies offered by American colleges – from Princeton’s ‘Getting Dressed’ seminar (in which you chart the major trials and tribulations of your life via your wardrobe) to ‘What if Harry Potter is Real?’ at Appalachian State University, an institution that is evidently asking the big questions. Universities in the UK have been quick to follow suit, slotting ‘Football Culture’ (informally ‘David Beckham Studies’) and ‘Golf Management’ in amongst their more quotidian offerings. But what of Australia? In classic antipodean fashion, our nation flounders in the drag stream of this important revolution sweeping through bastions of learning across the Western world. Of Beyoncé courses, here there are naught; there isn’t even one on Kylie. For the good of the nation, this dearth of legitimate academic offerings is something that must be rectified as soon as possible. Herein lie some prospective course outlines, uptake of which is practically guaranteed to increase the erudition of Australians everywhere. Academic administrators across the country, you are welcome.

My Anaconda Don’t Want Harm: The Pop Industry and Animal Rights Advocacy

Pop music is currently awash with motifs and symbols centred on the animal: one needs only to think of Taylor Swift’s visual preoccupation with horses in ‘Blank Space’, Katy Perry’s invocation of animalism in ‘Roar’ or Nicki Minaj’s ‘Anaconda’. Concurrently, Swift and Minaj have both claimed to be passionate animal rights advocates. In light of these revelations, this course will attempt to answer the question: ‘is there a link between these motifs, and a broader trend of concern for animal welfare emerging in the pop music industry?’ Students will critically analyse the work of the above artists, in addition to another of their own choosing, in order to explore how contemporary musicians are actively working to dislodge anthropocentricity as the dominant paradigm of human experience.

Assessment: An extended essay of 14,000 words. Students will be required to conduct a frame-by-frame analysis of a pop music video of their choice, expressly relating their observations to animal rights theory broached in the course (100%).

Into the Wild: Theorising Romanticism through the Bush Doof [Intensive]

In this course, partially taught off-campus, students will be required to attend a ‘bush doof’ of their choosing and actively record their experience. In exploring this facet of modern Australian youth culture, they will enhance their understanding of the theories and sentiments underpinning the work of romantics such as Henry David Thoreau. Note: students will be required to fund and source the supplementary materials required for this course.

Assessment: An experience journal of no more than 110 words, in response to the question, ‘how can nineteenth century art and culture be synthesised with techno?’ (100%).

Summertime Sadness: Lana Del Rey and malaise in post-Industrial America

This course will provide students with a trans-socio-cultural-historical insight into modern America through the music of Lana Del Rey. Using Del Rey’s ‘Summertime Sadness’ as a springboard into a discussion of Seasonal Affective Disorder, the course will subsequently perform an exegesis of Del Rey’s works in order to explore such themes as the dialectical tension between appearance and reality, corporate nepotism, the allure of wealth, and the iteration of the Electra Complex within the contemporary American space. Assessment: A live performance of at least two songs from Del Rey’s repertoire, followed by an extensive explication of the songs’ relation to each other, as well as to the themes of the course as a whole (85.5%). Tutorial participation (14.5%).