MS 149A // Marxism and Cultural Studies // Fall 2009
MW 1.15-2.30 // Crookshank 8

Kathleen Fitzpatrick // Department of Media Studies // Pomona College
Crookshank 4 // x71496 // kfitzpatrick at pomona dot edu
Office hours: MW 4.15-5.30

This course will focus on the ways that Marxist social thought underwrites its recent descendant, Cultural Studies, and the ways that it can inform the study of the contemporary media. To this end, we’ll read Marx and his many followers, as well as more contemporary revisions of Marxist thought. We’ll also read a number of critical applications of Marxist theory to various forms of cultural production. The course will be driven by concerns raised by student interest — the goal is not simply that you emerge understanding more about Marxism and its role in cultural analysis, but also that you take an active role in thinking this critical method. Therefore, the class will be focused around group projects, student presentations, and discussion; lectures will be available, but only in response to specific questions and concerns.


Attendance and participation (15%): See policies for more information. Bear in mind that participation doesn’t mean simply doing the work, or simply speaking up in class, but actively working to make the class a positive learning experience for you and your fellow students.

Blogging (20%): One of the key aspects of your work this semester is our course blog, on which you’ll write frequently, using your posts to respond to our course readings, to draw your classmates’ attention to articles and artifacts you’ve found, and so forth. You are required to post at least one entry each week, which should directly engage with the week’s readings, before the start of class on Monday; this entry should be as formal as a printed reading response would be, paying attention to the quotation, citation, and explication practices involved in close reading. Other entries are greatly desired; these can be as informal as you like. You can explore issues that have been raised in previous class discussion, but you must significantly expand on that discussion and not simply rehash what’s already been said. You can skip two of these reading response posts with impunity. You are also required to read your classmates’ posts and leave at least two comments each week, before the start of class on Wednesday. (Note that you don’t have to post the the two comments at the same time; just make sure that week-to-week you get those entries and comments in.) This weekly requirement is meant as a minimum acceptable level of participation; I hope that you’ll all contribute more, creating an ongoing, engaging dialogue.

MarxWiki (10%): During the course of the semester, we will be using a collaborative encyclopedia of Marxism and Cultural Studies, built five years ago by the last group of students to take this course. You will be responsible for editing and updating this wiki, leaving it much better than how you found it; each student is expected to participate fully in the project. In order to receive a passing grade for this part of the course, each of you must create a minimum of 2 comprehensive new entries for the wiki, and you actively edit at least 10 already-existing pages. That’s in order to pass: in order to get an A for this project, you must demonstrate a generous commitment to the wiki, writing entries that are not merely factually correct but also interesting and helpful, you must actively seek out ways to improve and expand upon the information contained here, and you must do all of this with an attention to quality. That attention to quality includes the quality of your prose: accuracy of grammar, spelling, and other formal writing issues count. As always, more information to come.

Group work (15%): During the second week of classes, I will divide the class into small groups. These working groups will serve multiple purposes during the semester: you will do some in-class discussion in these groups, you will share the burden of reading assignments within the groups, and you will work on group projects together. Among these projects will be an in-class presentation requirement; on one occasion this semester, your group will be called upon to lead our class discussion by giving a brief presentation and directing the ensuing conversation. This presentation and facilitation will be peer evaluated. Your overall work in the group will be evaluated by the group’s other members. More information to follow.

Term paper (40%): Your primary semester-long project will be a term paper of 20 pages, which will involve substantial research, and will make a complex, well-defined argument in which you carefully use the theoretical material we have covered in exploring the cultural object or phenomenon of your choosing. There will be multiple stages in your work on this paper, aimed at helping you focus your research, draft the paper, and thoroughly revise it before turning it in. Basic deadlines are indicated on the schedule, but more details will follow.


All policies under which my classes operate (including policies about attendance, late work, accommodations for students with documented disabilities, and the like) are available at Please read those policies carefully, and let me know if you have any questions.


The following required books are available at Huntley:

John Berger, Ways of Seeing
Michael Casey, Che’s Afterlife
Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities
Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism
Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life
Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction
Dick Hebdige, Subcultures
Janice Radway, Reading the Romance
Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers

Other readings as linked below are available on Sakai.


W Sept 2 — introduction

M Sept 7 — Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, “The Communist Manifesto” (1848)
John Berger, Ways of Seeing (1972)
introduction to Michael Casey, Che’s Afterlife (2009)

W Sept 9 — [no class; Prof. Fitzpatrick out of town]

M Sept 14 — Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 1 (1867), chapter 1, “Commodities“; chapter 6, “The Buying and Selling of Labour-Power
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology (1845-46), part I, section A, “Idealism and Materialism
Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1852), part III
Karl Marx, preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy (1859)

W Sept 16 — Marx/Marx and Engels essays, part two

M Sept 21 — Matthew Arnold, “Sweetness and Light,” from Culture and Anarchy (orig. pub. 1868)
Raymond Williams, “Culture is Ordinary” (orig. pub. 1959?)
Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play” (orig. pub 1973)
**Term paper, stage one: preliminary project proposal due**

W Sept 23 — Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1939)
Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” (1944)

M Sept 28 — Louis Althusser, “Contradiction and Overdetermination: Notes for an Investigation” (1962)
Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)” (1969)
**Term paper, stage two: preliminary bibliography due**

W Sept 30 — Antonio Gramsci, selections from The Prison Notebooks: “The Intellectuals” and “The Study of Philosophy” (1929-35, 1949)
Chantal Mouffe, “Hegemony and Ideology in Gramsci” (1979)
Stuart Hall, “Gramsci’s Relevance for the Study of Race and Ethnicity” (1986)

M Oct 5 — Raymond Williams, “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory” (1973)
Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (1977): section II, “Cultural Theory
Stuart Hall, “Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms” (1980)
Stuart Hall, “Signification, Representation, Ideology: Althusser and the Post-Structuralist Debates” (1985)

W Oct 7 — [no class; Prof. Fitzpatrick out of town]

M Oct 12 — Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (1961)

W Oct 14 — Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (1983), 1-65

M Oct 19 — [no class; fall break]

W Oct 21 — Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism (1993), xi-xxviii, 3-80
— class facilitators: Jori, Alex, Cal, Morgan
**Term paper, stage three: revised project proposal due**

M Oct 26 — Said, Culture and Imperialism, 191-336

W Oct 28 — Dick Hebdige, Subculture (1979)
— class facilitators: Megan, Leonor, Will, Leah

M Nov 2 — Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life (1984), xi-xxiv, 1-130
**Term paper, stage four: annotated bibliography due**

W Nov 4 — de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, 131-203

M Nov 9 — Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction (1984), 9-96
— class facilitators: Rose, Rachel, Erin

W Nov 11 — Bourdieu, Distinction, 169-225, 260-317

M Nov 16 — Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (1984), 1-118
— class facilitators: Hannah, Than, Zahra
**Term paper, stage five: draft due**

W Nov 18 — Radway, Reading the Romance, 119-222

M Nov 23 — Henry Jenkins, Textual Poachers (1992), chapters 1-3
**Term paper, stage six: peer review of draft due**

W Nov 25 — [no class; Thanksgiving]

M Nov 30 — Casey, more from Che’s Afterlife

W Dec 2 — Final presentations
**Term paper: final draft due**

M Dec 7 — Final presentations

W Dec 9 — Final presentations/concluding thoughts