Rhetoric and Popular Culture

As an intersection of my academic interest in rhetoric and my interests as a fan—a combination many undergraduate and graduate students are drawn too—I teach courses about popular culture seen through a rhetorical and cultural studies lens. ENG345: The Graphic Novel and Manga focuses on these popular forms of visual storytelling. Students explore theories of visual meaning-making and study several sub-genres of manga; the course also studies the context of manga, seeing it within a larger space of Japanese visual culture. ENG 347: Cinema Anime introduces students to film and animation theory, explores several major directors of anime, and studies the social function of anime in Japan and globally, reading it as a transnational phenomenon. In both courses, we look at ways of meaning-making at play in the works, identify recurring tropes, consider formal and genre variations, and consider how these texts influence and are influenced by Euro-American comics and film. Students contribute to a course blog, where they post reading and viewing responses, and experiment with applying theories. Looking ahead to the Spring 2019 session of ENG345, students will collaborate to create an outward-facing blog for an outside audience interested in anime. We will focus not only on film and film theories, but also practice writing about film (in this case, anime) for an audience. Since in the world of anime and manga derivative works such as fan fiction, cosplay, and fan art are important parts of the fandom, students will have the opportunity to contribute and/or write about and respond to such texts as well.

At the graduate level, I am teaching a much-requested course on fan studies. ENG806: The Rhetoric of Popular Culture (Fall 2018) surveys foundational texts and ideas in British Cultural Studies before diving into scholarship on Fan Studies. We consider how fans interact with texts and cultural industries to make meaning and form alliances and identities. The course addresses the history of fan studies, and explores the interconnections of critical theory, cultural studies, and rhetorical theory in the scholarship of fandom. Identity, gender, sexuality, “race,” class, and pedagogical applications are key topics and touchstones for the course. You can see the syllabus below:

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