Tips, Strategies, and Questions for Your Cultural Study Discussion or Paper

(in no particular order)

(These suggestions are culled from our readings:  M=Ross Murfin's Intro, HSW=Humm, Stigant, and Widdowson, FM=Moretti's "The Soul and the Harpy," J=Jameson's "On Interpretation")

1)  How is your novel related to the the "classics" or "masterworks" of its time period? (FM)  Research the relation (readership, reviews, personal relations between writers, social conflicts/codes in common, uses of form).  When analyzing your popular novel, devote the same attention to formal structures as you would for a "classic." (HSW)

2)  What has been the "afterlife" of your novel?  Research the adaptations, images, "simulacra" (see Baudrillard), and revisions of your novel and consider how they signify connections or disjunctions between past and present.  In other words, how is history represented through these texts or signs?  What are the historically specific meanings given the fiction through its appropriation and reproduction? (HSW)

3)  How is the reader's "subjectivity" produced through reading this novel? (see paragraphs on Janice Radway in M and HSW).  Consider the possibility of different audiences for the various incarnations.

4)  How does the novel relate to its own society and its conflicts?  How does it help to write (not merely "reflect") history? (HSW, FM and J)  Think about how it works as rhetoric (FM) to legitimate the social order (J).  What is its relation to the social "unconscious"? (J)  Research what specific cultural "codes" and conventions the book uses or references.

5)  Related to #4 above.  Be careful about encapsulating historical periods in unitary qualities and neat generalizations (FM).  Look instead for how the text resolves (or attempts to) contradictions in the social world (J).  How does the text function as an "instrument of consent"? (FM)  How does it negotiate the relation between social classes?  Is it subversive of the status quo in any way?  (HSW, FM and J)

6)  What is the relation between the novel and the market (production-distribution-consumption)?  How does the text function as a commodity?

7)  How does your popular novel use commonplaces, formulae, or motifs?  How does it use or fit in with particular genres? (HSW and FM)  And what is their relation to the political unconscious? (FM and J)

8)  Recalling Moretti's claim that "mentalities" change more slowly than material conditions, consider whether your novel incorporates a mentality or ideologeme (J's term for imagined relations between classes or protonarratives for representing those relations) that is at odds with "real" conditions (as we can know them through other texts)?  In other words, how does this book relate to the larger historical dynamics that J says result in "cultural revolutions"?