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EN937 Fundamentals of Cultural Materialism/Cultural Studies

NB - this module will not be available in 2013-14


Fundamentals of Cultural Materialism/Cultural Studies

Dr. Stephen Shapiro

NB - this module will not be available 2008-09

Spring Term: Thursday 13.00-15.00

Cultural Materialism, and its closely linked British Cultural Studies, arguably stands as the Anglophone contribution to literary studies and critical thought in the post-war period. The positions and debates of cultural materialism/studies have become the theoretical context, if not analytical precondition, involving the hermeneutics of social representation through cultural notations, performances and artifacts, ranging from the ‘literary’ to the sub-and-para-literary. In turn. CM/S arguments have acted as the template for the emergence of more recent disciplinary formations, including, but not limited to, postmodernism, postcolonialism, and the methodological problems in writing a history of the marginalized, be it of class, race, gender and sexuality, and ability. A basic familiarity with CM/S’s fundamental tenets is hugely enabling to most engagements with contemporary research in the humanities. This module will examine some of the more well known figures and positions in cultural materialism/studies: Raymond Williams, the English translations of Antonio Gramsci’s posthumous Selections from the Prison Notebooks, and the Birmingham School of British Cultural Studies. Gramsci’s writing is included here because the translations have acted as a foundational touchstone for Williams, Hall, and their associates. The module’s broad goal is to equip students with the basic terminology and problematic of CM/S in order to empower their own negotiations with contemporary research in Anglophone and comparative literary studies.


Week 1: Introduction
Marx, Karl, “Feurbach: The Opposition of the Materialist and Idealist Outlook” from The German Ideology

Week 2: Raymond Williams: First Steps
“Culture is Ordinary”
“The Social Significance of 1926”
“Literature and Sociology”

Week 3: Raymond Williams: Structures of Feeling
“Analysis of Culture” from The Long Revolution
“Introduction” from The English Novel: From Dickens to Lawrence
“The Long Revolution” from Politics and Letters: Interviews with New Left Review
“Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory”

Week 4: Raymond Williams: Modernity, Postcolonialism, Institutionalization
“When was Modernism”
short reviews from Who Speaks for Wales
“Who Speaks for Wales?
“Welsh Culture”
“Wales and England”
“ West Offa Dyke”
“Adult Education”
“The Future of Cultural Studies”

Week 5: Antonio Gramsci: Intellectuals, History of Ideas, and Critique of the Enlightenment
“The Formation of Intellectuals”
“The Study of Philosophy”
“Notes on Italian History” (selections)
“The Southern Question”

Week 6: Antonio Gramsci: Hegemony, Fascism and the Crisis of Bourgeois Culture
“State and Civil Society”
Stuart Hall, “Gramsci’s Relevance for the Study of Race and Ethnicity”

Week 7: Antonio Gramsci: Counterhegemony, the Collective Worker, and Left Institutionality
“The Modern Prince”

Week 8: “The Birmingham School”: Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies – First Steps
Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies and the Centre: Some Problematics and Problems”
Norma Schulman, “Conditions of Their Own Making: An Intellectual History of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham”
Stuart Hall et al: Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order

Week 9: “The Birmingham School”: Moral Panics and Authoritarian Populism (Thatcherism)
Stuart Hall et al: Policing the Crisis: Mugging, the State, and Law and Order

Week 10: “The Birmingham School”: End of the Formation
Richard Johnson, “What is Cultural Studies Anyway?”
Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies”
Charlotte Brunsdon, “A Thief in the Night, Stories of Feminism in the 1970s at CCCS”