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Teaching Popular Culture

Popular Culture and Why Students Should Write About It

A few definitions ...

  • From Signs of Life in the USA, popular culture “is that segment of culture that incorporates the activities of everyday life, including the consumption of consumer goods and the production and enjoyment of mass-produced entertainments” (564).
  • Common Pop Culture Topics: Film, Music, Gaming, Trends, Advertising, the Internet.

How I use popular culture in my classes:

  • English 093 [now 098]:  Graphic novels [Maus] to help students make connections from developmental to English 101 standards of reading and writing
  • English 101:  research essay and annotated bibliography around a particular theme in popular culture [Monsters]
  • English 101:  film, short films, music, etc. to reinforce literature; focus on an episode in the short story or drama section of the course to explain visual literacy and how it is not tied to simply words in print
  • Literature classes:  look at the evolution of a work or an author through the lens of popular culture

For sample assignments, please see the section below.

Resources For Teaching

Textbooks & Readers from Academic Publishers:

  • Signs of Life in the USA: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon (Bedford / St. Martin's)
  • Mirror on America: Essays and Images from Popular Culture Joan T. Mims and Elizabeth M. Nollen (Bedford /St. Martin's)
  • The Pop Culture Zone: Writing Critically about Popular Culture Allison D. Smith and Trixie G. Smith (Cengage)

Themed Readers from Academic Publishers:

  • Technology: A Reader for Writers Johannah Rodgers (Oxford University Press)
  • Culture: A Reader for Writers John Mauk (Oxford University Press) 
  • Identity: A Reader for Writers John Scenters-Zapico  (Oxford University Press) 
  • Reading Popular Culture Michael F Petracca and Madeleine Sorapure (Pearson)
  • Monsters Brandy Ball Blake and L. Andrew Cooper (Fountainhead Press) 
  • (E)dentity Stephanie Vie (Fountainhead Press) 
  • (E)Tunes Rod C. Taylor (Fountainhead Press)
  • Monsters: A Bedford Spotlight Reader Andrew J. Hoffman (Bedford / St. Martin's)
  • Acting Out Culture: Readings for Critical Inquiry James S. Miller (Bedford / St. Martin's) 
  • Reading Pop Culture Jeff Ousborne (Bedford / St. Martin's)

*Pearson and Bedford / St. Martin's actually have quite a few readers that relate to popular culture, so give their sites a look through for more ideas. 


MLA Style