Cultural Studies & Interdisciplinary Studies, An Introduction
Ethnicity, Sexuality, and Gender in Literature, Film, & Beyond
Fall 2012 MALAS 601 SEM:CULTSTD SEX FILM GNDR | Wednesdays 3:30pm to 6:10pm in LSN 134  |  Professor William A. Nericcio
e begin with a grand mystery, an almost unanswerable question: “What is Interdisciplinary Studies?” Another query chases fast on its tail: “What is Cultural Studies?” and, after that, yet another enigmatic conundrum, this one voiced with some vehemence, “What the hell is ‘MALAS’?”

These kinds of questions are almost enough to floor your typical self-respecting graduate student (or burn-out professor), but students in MALAS (and their friends from other programs) will not be daunted--these are the kinds of questions that have been driving intellectual culture in the U.S. and Europe at least since the late 1970s, if not before, and we will take to it like fish to water.

So, to the questions: What the hell is MALAS?

MALAS is the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts and Sciences program at San Diego State University; it is an interdisciplinary/cultural studies MA open to graduate students from any field (and with any degree: BA, BS, JD, MFA--all kinds of students prowl our halls and lurk about soaking up wisdom in our seminars). MALAS was founded 25 years ago by a bio-chemist, Stephen Roeder; a poet and literary critic, the late/great Fred Moramarco; a drama professor and voice teacher, Anne Charlotte Harvey; a political scientist, Henry Janssen; and a professor in the History of Science, Howard Kushner (now of Emory University)--others contributed (namely John Adams, of Adams Humanities fame/infamy), but you can see from the community of founding mothers and fathers, that from the outset, MALAS was all about the mix, the mash-up, the fusion of influences, traditions, backgrounds, and cultures.  This seminar will be true to this intellectual mestizo/a legacy.

And what about “interdisciplinary studies” and “cultural studies”?

Interdisciplinary Studies is nothing to sneeze at. On the surface it is what it proclaims itself to be--an intellectual project that shuns any strict allegiance to any one field, any one set of practices and conventions. 
The popularity interdisciplinary studies across the academy has been fueled by the avalanche of innovation led by post-structuralists including Jacques Derrida (Philosophy), Michel Foucault (Intellectual History), Edward Said (Literature and {later} Post Colonial Studies), Jacques Lacan (with Frantz Fanon, and later, Luce Irigaray) (Psychoanalysis), Andy Warhol (Art), Marshall McLuhan (and later, Stuart Hall) (Media Studies/Cultural Studies), and Gayatri Spivak (Marxist Criticism) {just to name a few}, interdisciplinary and cultural studies are practices that reward the eclectic, wandering mind. In interdisciplinary studies, the periphery is rich, and the margins reveal themselves as the best places to investigate cultural phenomena.  Some of the most influential leaders in cultural studies are scholars who travailed in comparative disciplines, like Comparative Literature, where exploring the relationship between literature, film, theatre, and art are a centuries-long tradition; or like Religious Studies, where a comparative approach to religion as a global phenomena is long-standing.

And so, our seminar will seek to introduce its clever inhabitants to a wide variety of thinkers and artists--while a taste of theory will be on our plate each week, we will also strive to introduce ourselves to a broad sampling of genres and medias; while the final lineup is still in development, the course will likely include creative works from theatre, music, literature, film, the internet, painting, television, dance, and more. Because of the particular training of your ringleader, our readings during the course of the semester will foreground issues of great debate presently in interdisciplinary studies, so that race, gender, sexuality, and 
politics will drive many of our discussions--that said, the floor will be open to other approaches/other “texts,” and graduate students in our seminar should feel empowered to share books, films, essays, and the like that embody the best of cultural and interdisciplinary studies.

Agents of intellectual evolution and change, graduate students who engage in interdisciplinary espionage are treated to an ever-evolving tapestry of practices and phenomena, peering over the shoulder of one practitioner here, gleaning new insights from another researcher in another field (and another focus) there, MALAS graduate students (and their peers/comrades/partners-in-crime) from other fields find themselves re-inventing themselves and their intellectual scope each week, and in the end, are all the stronger.
(note! one or two texts MAY be added to this list and there may be an inexpensive reader with essays as well).


Seminar Logistics

How to succeed in our introduction to cultural studies/interdisciplinary studies seminar...

MALAS graduate seminar  (the closest you can get to doing doctoral level work in the humanities at SDSU) is a pretty serious thing. Or, better put: it can be a pretty serious thing... but not serious in the heart-attack sense of "serious"; more like serious in the "great, now i have to be accountable for my intellectual range, preparation, and imagination" sense. My expectation, of course, is that you will enter each seminar session having carefully completed the assigned reading for a given day.  But you should also know that my desire far outstrips my expectations!  My desire is that you will have both prepared the material by doing the reading, but that you will also have “prepared” the material as if you were the professor for the class.  That means doing the reading, surveying recent research in the field of said work, looking up published reviews and scholarship that focus on said work, and preparing questions (both discussion questions and close-reading-related questions) to share with your professor and your colleagues. When we are undergraduates, it is easy, perhaps, to sit in the back of the room and listen. And while you can still get away with this as a graduate student, you must also consider that said silence does your colleagues a disservice. Promise me (and promise yourself) that you will use the time we have together to share the amazing contours of your imagination!

Graduate Seminar Presentations  (or "you are the professor")

Each week, we will open seminar with one or two (depending on how many students end up being in the class) 8-minute presentations wherein you will be the "Proto-Professor for the Day." Your goal in these presentations will NOT be to summarize the reading for a given day. Instead, the idea is more to wrestle with a cool idea or problem or crisis or (you name it) that you encountered during your preparation/research, and to share it with your fellow cultural studies colleagues (and me)!

Seminar Paper

This being a "graduate seminar," it is expected that you will produce an amazing piece of rhetorical excellence in the course of the semester--a seminar paper or essay. To that end, you will submit to me on Wednesday, December 5, 2011, in our seminar, a well-researched, nicely crafted, exquisitely-honed critical essay anywhere from 15 to 20 pages; note that this is the final day of class and we will be having an in-class colloquium/party where you will share your findings in well-honed/crafted 5 minute oral presentations (think of it as doing standup, with smarts!)  The essay should be typed, double-spaced, and carefully proofread. It should not have any special cover page or plastic cover--a staple or paper clip in the upper left hand corner is fine.

What will this beautiful essay be about? That's the fun part! Let us first consider the obvious: you are a graduate student. What does that mean? It means that you are a scholarly apprentice of sorts. You are one in a long line of individuals who aspire to scholarship--someone who aims to produce an exegesis of the first order.  Like it or not, one of the things that will determine whether or not you have what it takes to get past the gates at the ivory tower is your writing. It used to be that writing for literary journals was an extended exercise in pain and self-abuse. But the field is changing and so are its journals. That is the easy part.

How will you go about imagining this essay? Please have your essay derive or be based in large part on a text, author, director, theme, genre which is part of the required material for our class; moreover, I am also open to you conceiving of your submission to me as a draft chapter from your master's thesis, or a possible submission to critical journal.

Footnote vs. endnote? MLA style vs. Chicago style vs. APA style?

These controversies have been solved for you in advance. As part of your assignment, I want you to immerse yourself in the variety of journals now publishing essays in , literature, film studies, cultural studies, comparative literature and contemporary studies in comparative cultures. You may complete this immersion here at SDSU's Love library, at USD, or UCSD.

Some pretty good journals include: american literature, boundary 2, critical inquiry, social text, pmla, south atlantic quarterly, camera obscura and cinema journal.

Think of your essay, then, as an exercise in role-playing--any question you might have about format, tone, styles, footnoting tactics and the like will be answered by the editorial policy of the journal you select as your guide. Do please submit with your seminar essay, a copy of one essay from the journal you have selected that represents to you the BEST that journal has to offer.

Do note that our library has great, full-text, online journal archives like project muse and jstor--if you are off campus, you may have to log-in through the SDSU Libweb server reference index to access these invaluable index. If you have any question as to the appropriateness of a journal just give me a call or pull me aside and ask me.

What can you write on? Well, just about anything. I imagine the best exercise will be to throw all your books and notes on a table, think about what are some of the provocative issues that have stayed with you during the term and then head off to the library and those endless stacks of scholarly journals. By the time you’ve paged through all those journals and get back to your books and notes, you’ll have a firmer grasp on the goals of your analytical adventure. You’ll also probably have a headache--welcome to academe.

office hours
First thing to do? Ignore this sign on your left!

My real office hours are on Tuesday afternoons from 12:15 to 4pm and by appointment in Arts and Letters 273--do please take the time during the course of the semester to come on out and  introduce yourself and be a real, living, breathing, person--the social dimension of intellectual life is key to your development as a graduate student and, believe it or not, it will make it easier for you to emerge as a dynamic agent of our seminar. My phone number here at SDSU is  619.594.1524, but the best way to make sure you get ahold of me is to send me an email:

My office is pretty easy to find, it's at the end of the hall to your left after you enter the Arts and Letters building 2nd floor, ground-level entrance.  Look to your left to see what awaits you!
Introduction to Cultural Studies
Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Introductions; outline of the class project; and amazing intro to cultural studies lectures by LAURA HERBERT, DAFNE MUNTANYOLA SAURA, and SIMONE BELLI.  No reading for today!
Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Enter our seminar room having read the first 110 pages of Edward Said's ORIENTALISM; it is as important that you attend to the craft of Said's rhetoric as it is the substance of his argument. Our Chavela Vargas MALAS pre-Doc, Laura Herbert will lead the discussion whilst I am lecturing over at Ohio State University. Here's Said in a Charlie Rose interview; click the image to be instalinked...
Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Enter our imagination/cultural studies laboratory having finished ORIENTALISM. As you read, be sure to imagine ways you can adapt Said's method and apply it to your own areas of interest; come to class having identified a couple specific places in the reading where Said pulls something off that you can adapt/transmogrify for your own specific research.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012

We enter our seminar room transformed by our time on the couch with that magnificent seer from Austria, that maven of the unconscious, human sexuality, desire, trauma, and cigars, Sigmund Freud. Enter the seminar room having read ALL of Appignanesi's and Zarate's FREUD FOR BEGINNERS. Also, carefully read the first two case histories in the required Freud case histories collection: Little Hans, he of the 'widdler' issues; and The Rat Man, whose obsessional compulsions might be funny on an episode of Seinfeld, but are decidedly more tragic in the pages of Freud's notebook.
Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Having thrilled to the rhetorical/hermeneutic findings of Edward Said (and acquainting our selves with post colonial criticism, literary criticism, political science, the history of science, anthropology, semiotics, Marxist criticism, and more), and perused the interior of Sigmund Freud's couch (and immersing ourselves in European intellectual history, psychoanalysis, gender studies, human sexuality, and biography), we now turn to the flaneur criticism of ROLAND BARTHES and his noteworthy collection of pieces, MYTHOLOGIES.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Roland Barthes appeared on the scene last week and began to sensitize us to the inner workings of culture; this week, we move on to the grandmaster of semiotics and semantics whose saying, "the medium is the message" changed the world of communication theory in the United States and Beyond. Enter our intellectual laboratory having read THE MEDIUM IS THE MASSAGE: AN INVENTORY OF EFFECTS.   Also bring with you for a show and tell sequence in class, a critique of an advertisement from a newspaper or magazine, 1 to 2 pages, typed, cleverly-titled, and that incorporates something you steal/riff-off-adapt from McLuhan and Quentin Fiore's volume.

Here's a brief clip, from Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL, wherein McLuhan makes his cinematic debut, as himself, outing the stupidity of a self-obsessed pedant from Columbia University.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

e break up the phallogocentricboys club of cultural studies with a semantic bomb that meditates on the complexities of semiotic discourse: Susan Sontag's ON PHOTOGRAPHY.  Read the entire collection and don't be shy about bringing books/works by photographers you adore to class for show and tell. As a writing exercise in cultural studies criticism, select a photograph from the 20th century by one of the following photographers: Cindy Sherman, Helmut Newton, Man Ray, Tina Modotti, Ellen Von Unwerth, Robert Frank, Gordon Parks, or Steven Meisel... and produce a one-page Sontag-laced analysis of the photo. Tape a xerox of the photo to your writing so that the image faces your lucid hermeneutic exposition.
Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Guest Lecture:

Today our graduate seminar helps to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of MALAS with a guest lecture by the one and only Frederick Luis Aldama, Distinguished Professor, Ohio State University.
Readings for today include the introduction to Tex[t]-Mex and the two "Seductive Hallucination" chapterettes from the same book; also, the following set of readings authored by Professor Aldama.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

e flee the magical world of comics, graphic narrative and cinema for the theoretically rich domain of Severo Sarduy and his WRITTEN ON A BODY volume--stumble into our seminar room having read the entire collection. Also enter the seminar room today having read/devoured the chapters of LUPE VELEZ and RITA HAYWORTH in the Tex[t]-Mex volume. Thematically we are focused today on issues of metamorphosis and transmogrification: of the body, to be sure, but of the psyche, of identity, and more.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Exit Severo Sarduy. Enter Michel Foucault.  This week we turn to the curious case of Herculine Barbin--a case history/memoir that plunges us into a matrix of biology, sexuality, gender, and nuns....  Yes, nuns! thrown in for good measure. Read the entire volume HERCULINE BARBIN and enter class ready to discuss males, females, hermaphrodites, Michel Foucault and more.  Also read this mini-cultural studies reader focused on related subject matter by Few, Laqueur, and Stolberg.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The last few weeks we have immersed ourselves in the transgressive, transvestive, transmogrifying aphorisms of Severo Sarduy and then turned to poignant and torturous artifacts associated with Herculine Barbin (and her mouthpiece, Michel Foucault). Today, we turn this week to the Marxist semiotics of John Berger and his crew with WAYS OF SEEING. A landmark BBC television series before it morphed into a book, WAYS OF SEEING seeks nothing less than a revision in our understanding of the history of art--all of it: oil painting, commercial art, pop art, advertising and more.

Note: late addition--be sure to pick up and read the recent issue of ADBUSTERS I added to the syllabus; it is available at the campus bookstore under the author name "adbusters."...
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Surprise 25th Anniversary MALAS Cultural Studies Lecture:

Proust and the Poetics of Space [via Los Angeles]
Assistant Professor
Modern Languages and Literature
CSU Fullerton


Fanny Daubigny graduated with degrees in Literature and Law. She has taught at Bowdoin College in Maine and is currently an assistant professor of French at California State University, Fullerton. She has published several articles on Marcel Proust and Marthe Bibesco. Her research interests lie at the crossroads of 19th-20th literary history, art history, gesture studies, and geopoetics abnd she is currently working on a book project focusing on the reception of Marcel Proust in Greece and Turkey.

Fanny Daubigny est diplômée en Littérature et en Droit. Elle a défendu une thèse en 2007 sur la poétique du détail gestuel dans le roman de Marcel Proust. Elle enseigne à California State University, Fullerton depuis 2007 et est l’auteur de plusieurs articles sur Marcel Proust, les techniques photographiques de la fin du XIXième siècle et l’herméneutique du geste. Ses derniers  travaux de recherche interrogent les relations complexes qu’entretiennent les ‘’oubliées’’ de la littérature avec le modernisme.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving week no class...

Wednesday, November 28, 2012 | UPDATE
I have some bad news and good news--the good news is that class for today, Wednesday, November 28, 2012, has been canceled (good news as it gives you time to focus on your final essays for the seminar). I have been invited to lecture in NYC and, as you know in our universe of publish or perish, I have to pay obeisance to the gods of academe and put research before pedagogy. My apologies. The good news is that I am deferring the deadline for your term essay to Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 4pm to 6pm when we will have our final colloquium/class party etc. If you cannot make this date owing to prior commitments, I understand--just be sure to slide your masterwork under my door before the deadline, Arts and Letters 273.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Today, our last day of regular class meetings, we  make room for Jacques Derrida's MEMOIRS OF THE BLIND--arguably the French sage's most accessible, moving, and compelling work. Come to class with a one-page close reading of what you view to be the book's most evocative passage.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012, 4pm-6pm.

Sadness reigns! It's the final day of seminar, with a  colloquium & celebration--also MALAS's own JONATHAN VALDEZ, with a brief lecture on MASTERING THE SRS CHALLENGE!  (oh, and, of course: your masterworks/essays are due today!)