Cultural studies

2014-09-25T08:53:00Z (GMT) by Brian Jarvis
Why do literature students need to know about cultural studies? There are two main reasons. Firstly, cultural studies is partly responsible for the shape of the syllabus in many English departments in the twenty-first century. It was involved in the challenge to the traditional ‘canon’ of ‘Great Works’ by DWEMS (Dead White European Males). Cultural studies, therefore, is partly responsible for the fact that somewhere in your department people will be studying (get ready either to cheer or sneer) Harry Potter, or Stephen King, or Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City (1997). Although this might not seem especially contentious nowadays, just a few decades ago the idea that students might study graphic novels (that’s the posh term for comics) or Hollywood adaptations of Shakespearean drama would have made most academics apoplectic (that’s the posh term for very angry). A second reason why cultural studies is relevant to literature students is that it has been at the forefront of developing a distinctive approach to texts which is interdisciplinary, self-consciously theoretical and politicised. The ‘cultural studies approach’ has been imported into literary criticism and you are certain to encounter it at some stage in your secondary reading.