Cultural Studies

Introduction to Literature
Michael Delahoyde

Cultural Criticism

Cultural criticism,or cultural studies, is related to New Historicism but with aparticular and cross-disciplinary emphasis on taking seriouslythose works traditionally marginalized by the aesthetic ideologyof white European males. It examines social, economic, and politicalconditions that effect institutions and products such as literatureand questions traditional value hierarchies. Thus it scrutinizesthe habitual privileging of race, class, and gender, and alsosubverts the standard distinctions between “high art”and low. Instead of more attention to the canon, cultural studiesexamines works by minority ethnic groups and postcolonial writers,the products of folk, urban, and mass culture. Popular literature,soap opera, rock and rap music, cartoons, professional wrestling,food, etc. — all fall within the domain of cultural criticism.

Obviously the field of cultural criticism isbroad. We will focus on it particularly as it concerns itselfwith questioning the ways Western cultural tradition expressedin literature defines itself partly by stifling the voices ofoppressed groups or even by demonizing those groups. We will focuson how literary tradition has constructed models of identity foroppressed groups, how these groups have constructed oppositionalliterary identities, and how different communities of readersmight interpret the same text differently due to varied valuesystems.

Works Consulted

Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms.7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.

Murfin, Ross, and Supryia M. Ray. The BedfordGlossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Boston: Bedford Books,1997.

Critical Theory
Introduction to Literature