What Makes a Cultural
Production a Good Topic for a Barthesian Cultural Criticism?
From: Student, Preparing
Sent: Wed 4/26/2006 10:35 PM
To: Sanders, Arnie
Subject: Cultural Criticism Paper Ideas
Dear Professor: You suggested on your web
site that we contact you regarding our ideas for this week's paper, so I
thought I would give you the list of ideas I already have.
Ingrid Abeleda violin concert at Haebler Chapel
- I have attended many concerts in general.
-I don't know that much about the violin.
- Not a system of events structured by rules
governing repeating gestures, but if you were to analyze "violin concerts,"
especially "young, voluptuous female violinists' concerts" as an artistic
fashion trend, it might work. You would have to ignore the actual
violin playing, but that's like Barthes not caring what the food tastes like
or who wins each match--both are irrelevant to the cultural myth-making he
is studying in the cultural codes.
Starbucks at Towson Town Center
- I have spent many Sunday mornings in a Starbucks or a similiar coffee shop.
- I have mixed emotions about the chain, but I believe I could put them aside
as I did with Hemingway.
- Nah, don't put those emotions aside--but
treat them analytically. How does Starbucks commodify getting a cup of
coffee and code it with symbolic significance? This one's right up the old
Ads in People Magazine or a woman's magazine
like Martha Stewart Living
- I hardly ever read People, but I understand ads.
- I know Martha Stewart and her genre quite well. Again, I would have to put
- I could analyze the recipes photos as Barthes did to see how food stylists
arrange the products to entice consumers.
- Only do the one you know well. The
advertising probably will be hard to do since it will be composed of many
types of ads, each of which might be analyzed. For instance, my wife
follows design magazines, so I know "high-end floor covering ads" as a type
with visually coded messages that transmit a myth about what putting the
stuff on your floor will do for/to you.
Ambassador Tour of Goucher
- I went on one as a provisional, only I was alone with my tour guide.
- I might have to get permission to follow along.
- This could work, but it would work even
better if you could analyze the "generic backward-walking student-guided
prospective-applicant college tour," or see the elements that make Goucher's
tour fit into the structural system of all those other tours. They're
amazingly similar. If you think about it, so are small liberal arts
colleges. Don't get hung up on the specific details (e.g., exactly how many
miles of shelves in the library?) until you have noticed the bigger abstract
patterns (e.g., turning the school's library into a commodifiable
"information highway" by converting its shelving space to mileage--great way
to appeal to people who probably just drove a few hundred miles to be
I look forward to your feedback. Sincerely,