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ENG806: Rhetoric of Popular Culture

Dr. Dom Ashby, Eastern Kentucky University, Fall 2018. CRN 15688
Office: Mattox 308
Student Hours: Mondays 1:30–3:00, Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:00–3:00, and By Appointment
Email: dominic.ashby@eku.edu
Office phone: 859-622-3086

Course Description
ENG 806 Topics in Modern Rhetoric: Rhetoric of Popular Culture. (3) A. Study in depth of
selected major authors, theories, research and/or pedagogical approaches in twentieth-century
rhetoric. May be retaken with a different topic to a maximum of six hours.

Special Topic Description

With an eye towards rhetoric not just as Aristotle’s “study of the available means of persuasion”
but instead the holistic notion of rhetoric as meaning-making, popular culture presents a vibrant,
ever-shifting venue for the study of rhetoric. Fan interactions with, participation in, and
production of popular culture produce endless moments of meaning-making. We will study
these moments and discuss how examining different elements of popular culture through the
lens of rhetoric enhances our appreciation and understanding of both.

To that end, this course will introduce you some of the foundational theories of cultural studies;
delve into fan studies as a continuation and specialization of cultural studies; explore how
cultural studies, rhetoric, and composition intersect in such areas as derivative works (fan art;
fan fiction), para-texts (such as guild websites and walkthrough videos created by MMO
players), fan criticism and archives (production of wikis; participation in forums) and other forms
of interactive meaning-making.

Required Texts
Gray, Jonathan, Cornel Sandvoss, and C. Lee Harrington, eds. Fandom: Identities and
Communities in a Mediated World, 2nd ed. New York University Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1-4798-
1276-9 Be sure to get the 2nd edition—the readings are completely different in the 1st

Jenkins, Henry. Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture. New York
University Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-8147-4285-3

Storey, John. Inventing Popular Culture. Blackwell Publishing, 2003. ISBN 0-631-23460-8

Additional required readings listed in the course schedule will be available on Blackboard.
Student Learning Outcomes for the Course
Student Learning Outcomes for the Master of Arts in English Program
Upon graduation, students will be able to:
● Discuss the core concepts and the primary and secondary texts which comprise the field
of study defined by their elective coursework and comprehensive examination reading
● Apply a variety of theoretical models in reading and pedagogical practices and articulate
their own position derived from (or situated among) these various models
● Generate written texts which embody the formal and scholarly expectations of the

We expect you to attend every class session unless an emergency situation arises. If you are
absent for more than one week of class, we reserve the right assign you a failing grade (FN) for
the course. Since the class only meets once a week, that means failing if you miss more than
one class period without documentation of an emergency. If you anticipate missing more than
one class due to existing obligations, talk with me ASAP so we can discuss alternatives.

For the purposes of this course, “excused absences” include verifiable medical or family
emergencies, university approved activities (accompanied by a university excuse), illness (yours
or a family member’s), and other absences as outlined in the University’s “Student Absence
from Class” policy:
1.14.pdf). Students should be prepared to document the reasons for the absence.
Students whose absences are not excused will not normally be allowed to make up tests,
quizzes, and/or assignments. Students who anticipate having a high number of excused
absences should contact their instructor as soon as the situation arises so that they can make
arrangements for how to handle missed class time.

Mutual Respect
I encourage vigorous and lively discussion in this class and within our university community.
However, personal insults involving an individual person’s race, ethnicity, class, ability, gender
identity, sexuality, and/or veteran status shall not be tolerated. Practice empathy and help
maintain our classroom and university as a safe and inclusive place!

Accessibility Accommodation Statement

The University strives to make all learning experiences as accessible as possible. If you are
registered with the Center for Student Accessibility (CSA), please request your accommodation
letters from the CSA. CSA will transmit your letter to the course instructor(s). It is recommended
that you discuss the accommodations needed with your instructor(s). If you believe you need an
accommodation and are not registered with the CSA, please contact CSA by email
(accessibility@eku.edu) or by telephone at (859) 622-2933. A student with a “disability” may be
an individual with a physical or psychological impairment that substantially limits one or more
major life activities, to include, but not limited to: seeing, hearing, communicating, interacting
with others, learning, thinking, concentrating, sitting, standing, lifting, performing manual tasks
and working. Additionally, pregnancy accompanied by a medical condition(s), which causes a
similar substantial limitation, may also be considered under the Americans with Disabilities
Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Academic Integrity Statement

Students are advised that EKU's Academic Integrity policy will be strictly enforced in this course.
The Academic Integrity policy (http://studentconduct.eku.edu/academic-integrity-policy) is
available at the EKU policy website (http://policies.eku.edu/). Questions regarding the policy
may be directed to the Office of Academic Integrity.


Reading Responses (20%)

Identify key terms and concepts from each of the assigned readings. Discuss how they help to
interpret and analyze popular texts or cultural artifacts (such as Ant Man, the Star Wars
franchise, Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares, WWF Wrestling, the NFL, Critical Roll, etc.).
What do the readings help you to see the text or cultural practice differently? Raise questions
for the class. Think of these responses as reading notes and feel free to add to them during
class discussion. The typed portion should be about two pages, double spaced, and printed.
These are due weekly any time a reading is assigned, except on weeks when you are
responsible for leading discussion (see below).

Discussion Lead, x2 (10% each, 20% total)

Working in pairs, take responsibility for two major readings during the semester (on days when
we read several shorter pieces, you may need to link them together in your discussion). On your
selected days, you and your partner will take charge of 45 minutes to an hour of class time.
Discuss major concepts, apply them to examples that you’ll present to the class, and engage
the class with an activity and/or questions. Handouts are encouraged and you may use slide
software such as Prezi or PowerPoint. You do not need to write a reading response for the
weeks you lead discussion.

Research Project
A major goal of the course is for you to put cultural studies theory and theories of fandom into
practice by using them to read and analyze a popular text, artifact, fandom, or cultural practice.
To this end, I encourage you to be trying to apply our readings to different texts throughout the
semester, in the the weekly reading responses. As we get further along in the semester, I’ll ask
you to choose a focus for your research, which will become the topic for your formal research
project. While working on this project, I expect you to look closely at your primary text(s) as well
as scholarly secondary sources. Your secondary sources should go beyond those assigned as
part of the course readings. They may include chapters from the textbook that we don’t get to,
but they should certainly include scholarly sources you find through database research. If you
have trouble finding sources related to your topic, take time to sit down with one of the reference
librarians, who can help you with choosing and using a database. Sometimes the keywords and
other search strategies can be unintuitive, so take advantage of their expertise!

The research project will include several smaller, linked components that will help you to find,
focus, and refine your topic. These components are as follows:

Topic Proposal
Write a 2-page proposal and a working bibliography of 15–20 sources you have found on the
topic that are helping to inform your understanding of the conversation you’re entering. You are
not expected to have read all of those sources by the time the proposal is due, but do read the
abstracts to make sure they relate to your topic or cover what you think they do based on the
title. The goal of the working bibliography is to show that there is sufficient scholarly research
available related to your topic; you are not locked into those sources and your research path
may diverge as you get deeper into your readings. Research proposals should answer the
following questions in one or two concise paragraphs for each:
● What is your topic?
● What do you already know about it (i.e., what research have you already done)?
● What research questions do you have about it that might lead to a unique argument?
● Why is it significant? (So what? What is the importance of your topic to the field?)
● What is the relation of the topic to your larger research/professional goals? Do you plan
on integrating this project into your MA thesis? Presenting at a conference?
In your proposal, you should refer to at least 3 of the of the sources from your bibliography to
show your understanding of the broader conversation and how you see your project responding.

Position Paper or Literature Review (20%)

6 to 8 pages, using 8 to 10 scholarly sources. Do not count your primary source(s) (e.g.
Ironman; the World Cup) towards your minimum number of sources.
You have two options for this project:
● (Option 1) Drawing from course readings and outside research, stake out your position
on your topic and make an abbreviated case for that position.
● (Option 2) Write a review of research related to your topic. Address the contributions of
the sources, how the interact, what trends you see in the research, and what gaps
remain. In the conclusion, gesture toward how your research will contribute to this
ongoing conversation. Note that a literature review is not an annotated bibliography—it
needs to function as a coherent essay, with connections made between sources.
Regardless of which option you choose, what you write in this piece may be integrated into your
next paper.

Revised Proposal
After completing your lit. review or position statement, meet with me again to revisit your project
proposal. At this point you might revise your research questions or redirect or refine your topic.
If your initial proposal was broad, now will be a time to narrow it further. At this time, you should
also begin to close in on an argument, which will be the driving idea for your term paper.
Term paper (40%)
13 to 16 pages, using at least 10 scholarly secondary sources.
In this paper, critically engage with concepts from the course and your research, and apply them
to your topic of interest. You may integrate parts of your literature review or position paper into
this paper, working forward from or expanding upon those ideas. Organization and cohesion are
important, so any integrated material from that earlier paper needs to be added in a way that it
contributes to your thesis—if there’s not a clear connection between something from your lit.
review and your argument, then leave it out; use that space to to discuss a different source, or
to get deeper into you analysis.
This paper may take a theoretical, analytical, or pedagogical focus—for example, you might:
● Use some of the concepts to offer a new reading of a text, place, event, or practice,
drawing attention to what is productive or revelatory about this new way of seeing
● Explore how several of the theories covered in this course could be brought together
productively to form a new theoretical lens
● Make a case for how theories of cultural studies or fandom can be used in the writing

Your goal for this piece should be to produce a text that is polished and ready to share outside
the class; your goal might be to present it at an academic conference, such as at KPA or one of
the regional Popular Culture Association conferences—both the Midwest and the Southern
conferences are often held near us. You might decide that this project will build towards content
for your MA thesis project.
Weekly Schedule
Schedule is subject to change. Planned changes will be announced in class, on Blackboard,
and via email; emergency cancelation or changes will be announced via email and
Blackboard—please check your EKU email account and this schedule regularly.

You are responsible for keeping up with material covered and assignments due on any days
that you miss class. Remember that the absence policy for the course only allows for 1 missed
day. If you need to miss additional days, let me know ASAP so we can arrange a plan for
keeping you on track with the course.

Week Date Topic Due

1 8/20 What is rhetoric and how does it relate to popular

What fandoms do you participate in? What are
some of your favorite pop culture phenomena?
Sign up for discussion lead days.

2 8/27 ● Storey: Preface; Chapters 1–3

● New Yorker Article on Adorno and Benjamin:
● Benjamin, Art in the Age of Mechanical
Reproduction pdf

3 9/3 Labor Day; No Class Meeting, but schedule an Draft proposal ideas
appointment to meet with me this week to talk about
your research ideas.

4 9/10 ● Storey: Chapters 4 & 5 Topic Proposal and

● Jean Baudrillard, “The Precession of Working Bibliography
Simulacra” pdf
● Fredric Jameson, Postmodernism and Frank Simulacra
Stewart Zdrojowy
Consumer Society pdf
● Alison Landsberg, “Memory, Empathy, and
the Politics of Identification”
Share topic ideas with the class.

5 9/17 ● Storey 6–8

● Stuart Hall, “Encoding/Decoding” pdf

6 9/24 Start Fans, Bloggers, and Gamers Stewart Zdrojowy

● Introduction: Confessions of an Aca/Fan Meghan McKinney -
● ch1. Excerpts from “Matt Hills Interviews Ch. 7 Pop
Henry Jenkins” Cosmopolitanism
● ch2. Star Trek Rerun, Reread, Rewritten:
Fan Writing as Textual Poaching
● ch6. Interactive Audiences? The “Collective
Intelligence” of Media Fans
● ch7. Pop Cosmopolitanism: Mapping
Cultural Flows in an Age of Media

7 10/1 Start Fandom: Bradley Foxx - Ch. 1

● Introduction: Why Still Study Fans? The Death of the
● ch1. The Death of the Reader? Literary Reader?
Theory and the Study of Texts in Popular
● ch3. Media Academics as Media Audiences:
Aesthetic Judgments in Media and Cultural
● ch10. Reimagining the Imagined
Community: Online media Fandoms and the
Age of Global Convergence

8 10/8 Dr. Nachtwey Visiting

● Fine, Gary Alan. Chapter Six [On Frame
Analysis]. Shared Fantasy: Role-Playing
Games as Social Worlds. Chicago: Univ. of
Chicago Press, 1983.
● Huizinga, Johan. Chapter One of Homo
Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in
Culture. London & Boston: Routledge &
Kegan Paul, 1980.
● Mackay, Daniel. Chapter 4 [RPG as
aesthetic object]. The Fantasy Role-Playing
Game: A New Performing Art.. Jefferson,
N.C. and London: McFarland & Company,
● Nephew, Michelle. “Playing With Identity:
Unconscious Desire and Role-Playing
Games.” In Gaming as Culture: Essays on
Reality, Identity and Experience in Fantasy
Games. Jefferson, N.C. and London:
McFarland & Company, Inc., 2006. 120-139.
● Peterson, Jon. “Chapter Five: The Dawn of
Roleplaying.” Playing at the World: A History
of Simulating Wars, People and Fantastic
Adventure, From Chess to Role-playing
games. San Diego: Unreason Press, 2012.

(Hey ENG101 Instructors! Your midterm grades

are due today.)

9 10/15 Fall Break; no class meeting Lit review or

Position Paper due
on Wednesday,

10 10/22 Fan Production & Labor 1 Ryan S.P. - The

● Fandom ch20. Ethics of Fansubbing in Powers That Squee
Anime’s Hybrid Public Culture Taylor Bottom-
● Fandom ch21. Live from Hall H:
Fan/Producer Symbiosis at San Diego
● Fandom ch23. The Powers That Squee:
Orlando Jones and Intersectional Fan
● Fandom ch4. Copyright Law, Fan Practices,
and the Rights of the Author (2017)

11 10/29 Fan Production & Labor 2 Courtney Forester +

● Otsuka Eiji, World and Variation: The J.R. -- Men Bonking
Reproduction and Consumption of Narrative
● Jenkins ch3. “Normal Female Interest in
Men Bonking”: Selections from the Terra
Nostra Underground and Strange
● Natalia Samutina. Fan Fiction as World-
Building: Transformative Reception in
Crossover Writing
● Britanny Kelley. Chocolate Frogs For My
Betas!: Practicing Literacy at One Online
Fanfiction Website.
12 11/5 Gender Revised/Updated
● Ien Ang, “Dallas and the Ideology of Mass Proposal, due at the
Culture” pdf CTPCR 173 time of our meeting
● Jenkins ch4. “Out of the Closet and into the
H. Elizabeth Kay
Universe”: Queers and Star Trek.
● Fandom ch14. Sex, Utopia, and the Queer Ryan S.P. - Sex,
Temporalities of Fannish Love Utopia, and the
● Naito Chizuko, Reorganizations of Gender Queer...
and Nationalism: Gender Bashing and
Loliconized Japanese Society

(In addition to our class meeting this week, meet

with me to talk about your research progress.)

13 11/12 “Race,” Racism, and Representation Courtney Forester &

● Stuart Hall, “What Is This ‘Black’ in Black J.R. -- Stuart Hall
Popular Culture?” pdf CTPCR 374
Bradley Foxx -
● bell hooks, “Postmodern Blackness”
Musical Jihad
● Amir Saeed, “Musical Jihad” pdf
● Fandom ch18. Black Twitter and the Politics
of Viewing Scandal
● Fandom ch19. Deploying Oppositional
Fandoms: Activists’ Use of Sports Fandom
in the Redskins Controversy

14 11/19 Bad Behavior/Representations of Fans H. Elizabeth Kay

● Fandom ch22. Fantagonism: Factions,
Institutions, and Constitutive Hegemonies of Frank - Fantagonism
● Kathryn Dunlap and Carissa Wolf, Fans
Behaving Badly: Anime Metafandom, Brutal
Criticism, and the Intellectual Fan
● Kerin Ogg, Lucid Dreams, False
Awakenings: Figures of the Fan in Kon
Satoshi https://www.jstor.org/stable/41510962
● Jenkins ch11. Professor Jenkins Goes to
● Jenkins 12. Coming Up Next! Ambushed on
15 11/26 Popular Culture and Education Meghan McKinney -
● Jonathan Alexander. Gaming, Student Mobilizing Fem.
Literacies, and the Composition Classroom. Rhetorical Criticism
https://www.jstor.org/stable/40593514 Taylor-Bottom- Pop
Culture as Emotional
● Colby, Colby, and Johnson’s Response to
Alexander’s essay.
● Kathleen Quinlivan. Popular Culture as
Emotional Provocation: The Material
Enactment of Queer Pedagogies in a High
School Classroom.
● Abby Dubisar et. al. Haul, Parody, Remix:
Mobilizing Feminist Rhetorical Criticism With

16 12/3 Peer Review Papers

Finals 12/10 Hold this day as a catch-up day, in case of class Term Papers
Week cancellations. If we stay on track, we won’t meet
during finals week.