backReturn to Unit Two: MWF

Unit Two, Day 19 - Monday

Class Goal: To begin getting students to think about the relationship between text and culture.

Connection to Course Goals: To highlight the contextual nature of texts and how they respond to particular audiences and cultural contexts.

  1. Collect Academic Responses: Remind students to put all work in their folders, including drafts and peer responses. (5 min.)
  2. Transition to Media Analysis: Lead a short discussion on how the assignment just passed in was a response to context. The following questions might help you get started: (10 min.)

How did you know what to include and exclude from the response paper? On what basis did you make decisions? (Lead them to issues of how they developed their response.)

  1. What was your sense of your audience? How did that influence the text?
  2. How did you treat the reading? Why was objective, accurate summary so important to this paper?
  3. Based on what we did in this paper, what generalizations can you make about the expectations of writing for an academic context? (Lead them to a list which includes focus, thesis, development with specific kinds of proof, and the authority of text.)
  4. What would happen if you decided NOT to do these things in your paper?

Transition to #3: Close this discussion by highlighting how texts must respond to their contexts or else risk miscommunication and/or not being listened to. Emphasize how texts can't be only what the author wants in order to work. Then, explain that our next paper is going to take up this issue of context again, not only in how you write your paper in response to an academic context but also by analyzing the effect of culture on already written texts.

  1. Discussion of the Cultural Function of T.V. (15 min.)

Write-to-learn: Ask students to list all the reasons they watch television, thinking specifically about which shows they like the most and why they might like them more than others.

Board Work: List all these reasons on the board. Try to prompt them to think about reasons for watching t.v. which go beyond "entertainment." For example:

  1. Ask them to think about why other people might like the shows they watch as well. How does a show appeal to a wide group of people?
  2. What do people "learn" from watching television?
  3. Why is it we're drawn to certain kinds of shows depending on our moods or time of day? What function is watching the show serving us?
  4. Why do certain characters appeal to us more than others?
  5. Why do most shows feature all white characters? Middle-class characters?

Summary: Summarize discussion by telling students how their list demonstrates that television serves a particular cultural function for its viewers that, while entertaining, usually has an effect beyond entertainment: it appeals to us because it typically reinforces certain aspects of culture we find appealing and/or believe in. In sum, it sends a message and is watched for a reason that can be examined culturally.

  1. Mini-Lecture on T.V. and culture: (Expand on the following notes with your own understanding of the definitions and own examples. Testing studentsí knowledge by asking for their own examples works well here.)
  2. In this paper, we'll be looking at three possible ways of analyzing t.v.: reinforcement, resistance, and function. (5 min.)

    Reinforcement: assumes that media, like television, appeals to people because it is reinforcing cultural myths and messages of the dominant culture. It is, in a sense, "teaching" us what to value and how to see ourselves in ways the culture deems acceptable. (Example: Brady Bunch and family values)

    Resistance: assumes that media, while reinforcing, also has the potential to change culture by offering up alternative visions of what the world can be like, or asking us to think more critically about our own assumptions. (Example: Golden Girls and questioning assumptions about women over 60)

    Function: assumes that viewers watch particular kinds of shows because they fulfill a certain need in society, something particular to this moment in history that people are anxious about or a cultural tension. This way of analyzing looks at the content to understand not whatís being reproduced or resisted (i.e. hidden meaning) but why people want this type of show at this moment in time (Example: "real" cop shows as a way of making people feel safer in a time of high crime rates; why cops almost always "get their man" in this supposedly "true and accurate" reproduction)

  3. Introduce assignment: (5 min.) Emphasize the following points:
    1. Even if they don't believe it, have to start with assumption that show is more than entertainment and has a relationship to culture.
    2. Focus will be key here: must focus not only a particular show but a particular aspect of the show
    3. Topic choice: encourage them to choose a show they're able to review multiple episodes of, ones in syndication are great choices.

Warning: it's sometimes harder to analyze a show they, personally, like a great deal because they don't have enough distance.

If time, go to #6. Otherwise, skip to #8

  1. Mini-Analysis with Norman Rockwell (10 min.) Examine the picture of the family tree on p. 22 of RRA and ask students to discuss what cultural values, myths, and assumptions the picture is reproducing. Possible discussion questions:
    1. What impression of family do we get from this tree?
    2. Why draw a picture of a family tree and publish it in a magazine to begin with? What does this imply about how we think of "heredity" in America?
    3. Why do we begin with a pirate and end with a middle-class couple and baby? What does this say about the assumptions of what happens to each successive generation in America?
    4. Why is the family mostly white? What happens to the "children" of the one Native American in the tree?
    5. If they see this as an image reproducing certain family values, is that a positive or negative thing? What effect might it have on those who see this picture as the quintessential example of America?

**If you have time, move onto the next two pictures, considering not only the visual effect but the titles as well.

  1. CSOW: Remind students that the type of analysis they just did is the kind of thinking/analyzing they will be required to do in the paper assignment.
  2. Homework: Remind students of next assignment: Katz in RRA and Douglas in PHG. Ask them to write one page listing the forms of cultural reinforcement and/or the effects of television that Katz and Douglas point out in their essays.