Dr. Alex E. Blazer Course Site Syllabus
In Class Activities Informal Writing Peer Response
Paper 1  
Paper 2 Annotated Bibliography Paper 3


Consuming (Pop) Culture

English 102-27: Intermediate College Writing

Spring 2005, MW: 2:00-3:15PM, Bingham Humanities Bldg LL 15

In Class Activities

1. Wal-Mart Debate

In both Benjamin Barber's "Jihad vs. McWorld" and Frontline's "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" global retailer Wal-Mart represents a touchstone for debate regarding consumerism, workers rights, economy, business practices, American identity, globalization, and multinational corporations. For the last 30 minutes of Monday's class, students will separate into groups and construct positions for, against, or questioning Wal-Mart that specifically use (quote!) the article as documentary as well as their own ideas. The first 30 minutes of Wednesday's class will be devoted to the debate. I suggest that groups appoint one or two people to be responsible for researching and summarizing each type of argument, such as consumer, worker, culture, or global related. Groups should collect and save their work in Word to Blackboard > Groups > In Class Activities > File Exchange. Here are the groups' positions:

  1. Wal-Mart Advocates should construct a series of arguments that not only defend but also advance the Wal-Mart retail and consumer, business and worker, and American and global ideologies.
  2. Wal-Mart Critics should construct a series of arguments that not only challenge Wal-Mart's business practices but the effects of Wal-Mart on American and global culture and economy.
  3. Moderators should form a series of balanced yet probing questions that cover the range of cultural and economic issues to ask each group.

2. Advertising Debate and Using MLA Style

This activity seeks to accomplish two goals, first, to debate the effects of advertising and, second, practice using MLA style for the first formal paper.


Part 1: MLA Style


As this is a course in the Department of English, the class should learn and use the literary discipline's Modern Language Association (MLA) style in its formal papers. Divide into three groups of no more than eight members and complete the following activity using the my MLA style handout.

  1. Create a new document in Microsoft Word and save it to the desktop.
  2. Adjust your margins to the proper format.
  3. Give your document both a proper heading and header.
  4. Give your document a title.
  5. Introduce and quote a short sentence from Steinem's "Sex, Lies, and Advertising."
  6. Introduce and quote a five sentence passage from Solomon's " "Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising."
  7. Create a Works Cited Page and list the essays that you quoted.
  8. After practicing MLA style, spend the rest of the time generating arguments for the debate.

Part 2: Advertising


In "Sex, Lies, and Advertising," Gloria Steinem describes an editorial situation in which advertisers attempted to control editorial judgment and content of the magazines in which they placed their ads. In "Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising," Solomon articulates how advertisements manipulate and even produce consumer desires and fears. Today, we will have our own debate on the topic of advertising in terms of its effects on the media and consumers. Spend no more than 20 minutes preparing your position for the debate. All groups should be sure to use and Marchand, Solomon, Steinem, Twitchell in their arguments. Here are the groups' positions:

  1. Anti-Advertising should construct arguments asserting media's editorial control as well as the disadvantages of advertising on consumers and culture.
  2. Pro-Advertising should construct arguments for control of product placement over the media's control as well as the cultural and consumer benefits of advertising in general.
  3. Moderators should form a list of balanced yet probing questions to ask each side.

Moderators will ask six or seven questions to which each side may only answer for one minute. Group members who interrupt or make ad hominen arguments about the other side will be disqualified. Do not take the arguments personally, for this is an excercise.

3. Television Stereotypes

Susan Douglas's "Signs of Intelligent Life on TV" and Amanda Fazzone's "Boob Tube" suggest that women are stereotypically portrayed as weak on television dramas, even when they appear to have power. Our discussion today will broaden the writers' focus to include the portrayal of men and situation comedies. Divide into groups of three to four and analyze the issue of stereotyping on television regarding the category you are assigned below. At the end of the period, your group will report your findings and argument to the class.

  1. men in dramas
  2. men in situation comedies
  3. women in dramas
  4. women in situation comedies

4. Library Research

In this in class activity, you will practice conducting research using the UofL Library system. You should have three windows open. First, open a new document in Microsoft Word and save it to the desktop. Second, open a web browser and browse to the Composition Research Methods handout. Third, download the MLA citation format and open it up in Adobe Acrobat. You're ready to begin the in class activity.

  1. Choose any article that we've read so far (but which you didn't write your first paper on) and write down its thesis or controlling idea. Note: for Paper 2, you must work with an article in the second course unit on the media.
  2. Compose a list of key terms and key words related to the article.
  3. Using the various library databases discussed in the Composition Research Methods handout, find 1 scholarly book or book chapter, 1 scholarly journal article, 1 magazine article, and 1 newspaper article on your practice research topic.
  4. As you find those sources, list them in the Word document in the appropriate MLA citation format, and amend the citation with UofL Library Call Numbers for books and periodicals.
  5. When you're done, either save your work to disk or Blackboard > Groups > In Class Activities or email your work to yourself for future reference should you choose to use these sources for a future formal writing assignment.

5. Reading Scholarly Articles

Until this point, we've been reading short essays designed for a general audience. As you research your second and third formal papers, you will come across and use scholarly articles, which are articles written by academic experts in diverse fields of study for those interested in that particular field. Sometimes these articles use specialized language and may be more "wordy" than you're used to reading. Don't be turned off by the language; use your ability to spot thesis statements and topic sentences to read these articles as you would any other. Today's activity is designed to acclimate you to such articles by cutting to the quick of the core issues of a special interest article. Even academics are interested in reality television, and Tom Bissell and Jan Jagodozinki offer two readings on the phenomenon, one literary and one psychoanalytical, respectively.


Divide into groups of three or four and submit a collective response to to the following questions to Blackboard > Groups > In Class Activities > File Exchange.


If you are assigned Bissell's article, answer these questions:

  1. How does Bissell define reality?
  2. Why does Bissell like and dislike reality tv?
  3. What do Nazis have to do with the discussion of reality and reality tv?

If your are assigned Jagodozinki's article, answer these questions:

  1. How does Jagodozinki define reality and the Real?
  2. To what perverse desires does Jagodozinki believe reality tv appeals?
  3. What does totalitarianism and The Truman Show have to do with Jagodozinki’s discussion of reality and reality tv?

6. Composing Theses

An effective paper commences with an effective introduction, and a strong thesis, which argues the writer's point of view and breaks down the meaning of the issue at hand, lies at the center of a good introduction. In this activity, you'll practice writing an analytical and argumentative thesis that you may choose to use for your second paper.


Part 1: Composition


Individually, open Microsoft Word and answer the following questions.

  1. What is the television program, news source, or film that you're going to write about for the second paper?
  2. Break down the fundamental message of the selected text as you see it.
  3. Compose a thesis that simultaneously analyzes the text's message and argues your interpretation of that message.

Part 2: Evaluation


Next, pair off with a fellow student and review each other's work based on the following questions:

  1. What is the topic?
  2. What is the message or meaning of the text?
  3. What is the writer's attitude and point of view toward the text?
  4. How is the writer interpreting the text?

7. Analyzing Literature

When we discussed the film American Psycho, we were essentially interpreting literature. Today, we'll formalize that process. Their are two basic keys to analyzing literature: 1) sketch the characters and 2) look for repeating imagery and patterns. One arrives at the central theme of a work of literature by analyzing the main character and the work's ubiquitous symbols. Today we'll break down the text and, in the following classes, we'll discuss what the text means in terms of theme. Break into groups of no more than four members and complete the following activity.

  1. At the heart of the Don DeLillo's White Noise is the narrator. Using the first part of the novel, "Waves and Radiation," do a character sketch of Jack Gladney. What does he look like? What does he do for a living? How does he interact with others? What does he desire? What does he fear?
  2. The title White Noise is significant and symbolic. Using the first part of the novel, "Waves and Radiation," define white noise and then list as many examples of white noise, waves, and radiation as you can.

8. Research Paper Outline

Although you will not be writing two drafts of your final research paper and submitting your draft to me and your peers for review, you will nonetheless benefit from starting your paper early and having your peers and I respond to your ideas. For our last day of class, Wednesday, April 20, compose an outline of your paper. Although it does not have to be a complete sentence outline, it should be understandable by others. Include your tentative thesis, the topic sentences for body paragraphs, and which research materials will support which of your arguments. On Wednesday, you will respond to your peers' outlines as they will to yours.


Form groups of no more than four. One member will share her outline with the group and the group will review her preliminary work based on the questions below. After one outline has been reviewed, the group will respond to another outline.

  1. Does the thesis set up and underline all of the issues discussed in the outline?
  2. Do each of the outline's sections build on and support the overarching thesis?
  3. Does the outline appear to offer a sustained and substantial analysis of a popular culture issue?
  4. Does the outline use research sources to support its analysis?

Informal Writing

The goal of the informal writing assignments is to get you to think actively about the readings and write analytically about popular culture (become a critical consumer rather than a blind indulger.) These short assignments of 1-2 double-spaced, typed pages with 1" margins and 12-point fonts will also prepare you to write the longer, formal papers. Approximately once per week, you will be asked to respond to an essay or some element of popular culture.


In class responses will be written in Word and turned in on Blackboard. Out of class responses will be due by the start of class on the due date, either as a typed hard copy or Word or WordPerfect file (not Works) in Blackboard > Assignments > Informal Writing #. To retrieve your graded paper, go to Blackboard > View Grades > Informal Writing #. Click the "0" link to open up your grade. Your graded paper is the attached file in section 3 Feedback to Student. Click here for grading rationale and calculation of informal writing assignments

  1. More Goods
  2. Jihad vs McWal-Mart
    • Respond to either Benjamin R. Barber's "Jihad vs. McWorld" or Frontline, "Is Wal-Mart Good for America?" by summarizing the work's thesis and argument. If you respond to Barber, answer the textbook's "Reading the Text" questions 1, 2, and 4 on page 132: "Summarize in your own words Barber's definitions of 'jihad' and 'McWorld.' What are the two scenarios for the future as painted by the proponents of what Barber calls 'jihad' and 'McWorld'? To what extent do you find these scenarios valid?' How do both jihadic culture and McWorld endanger democracy, in Barber's view?" If you respond to Frontline, lay out the pros and cons of Wal-Mart.
    • Due: Monday, January 24
  3. Advertising
  4. TV
  5. The News Media
  6. Satirical Films
  7. Don DeLillo's White Noise
  8. Don DeLillo's White Noise, criticism

Peer Response

You will be given the opportunity to revise your first two formal papers based upon not only my comments but your peer's comments as well. You will provide constructive criticism to three or four other members of the class as will they to you. Peer Response is broken down into two phases: written response and verbal response. The written response is due on the same day the peer response group meets to discuss their papers.

Paper 1


Written Responses

Use the following issues to help you to formulate your one page, double-spaced response to each peer's paper. Even if you find the paper good, you must still comment on these issues. You can always engage a conversation with the writer about how you're analyzing the issue differently, for that dialogue can also help the writer in the revision process.

Peer Response Discussion


In the peer response meeting, group members will share their responses in verbal form. Writers take turns listening to their group members review their work. Specifically, the group should go around the circle and state

  1. what they think the writer's thesis or controlling idea is
  2. whether or not the writer fairly and accurately presented the argument of the essay she summarized
  3. whether or not the writer presented a valid and adequate reaction, be it extension or critique, of the original essay
  4. any other comments for revision

Paper 2

All peer groups will meet Wednesday, March 30.

Use the following issues to help you to formulate your 250 word response to each peer's paper. Even if you find the paper good, you should still comment on these issues. Don't be vague; talk specifically about particular ideas and analyses. You can always engage a conversation with the writer about how you're analyzing the issue differently, for that dialogue can also help the writer in the revision process.

Paper 1

In the previous three informal writing assignments, you made initial summaries of authors' arguments about the American consumerist world view and did your own semiotic analysis of an advertisement selling such a good. The goal of the first paper is for you to fully enter into the debate on consumerism by rigorously summarizing one of the essays we've read in class. Choose an author whose argument you wish to either expand upon or refute. In either case, your paper should summarize, fairly and accurately, the author's argument. Evaluate that argument: analyze and criticize, affirm and interrogate, but always be fair to the author's argument. Finally, your paper should provide your own perspective, your own argument (analysis and ideas) by either agreeing with the essay but furthering its point with your own ideas, or disagreeing with the essay and offering counterargument of your own.


You will write two drafts of this paper: first, an ungraded draft that will be responded to by me and your peers (see peer response guidelines), and second, a final, graded draft that revises the first draft.

Paper 2

In the first paper, you summarized a writer's argument and then provided your own evaluation of the subject. In the second paper, you will provide your own analysis first and foremost, and use two authors' essays to support your argument. Choose a specific television program, news source, or film and then analyze that particular text and its genre. Your essay must utilize two articles to help it prove its point, one that we've read in our textbook since the first paper and one that you yourself find using the library databases.


The outside article, which you can find using the information gained from our library research presentation, should be from a scholarly book chapter, a scholarly journal (published four times per year and consisting of writers who are academics in the field), or a reputable magazie (choose a high quality, substantial, argumentative and feature length article; editorials, reviews, and short essays are not acceptable). Finally, note that the point of this essay is not to summarize and evaluate others' essays, as you did in the first paper, but rather to construct your own analysis of a television or news program and use others' work to support that analysis. Breakdown the program's message using the critical and semiotic skills we've been exemplifying in class discussion and course readings.


For example, you could could analyze The Oprah Winfrey Show or Maury using the Stark article and one other article you find through your own research. You could discuss a local news program using the Rapping article and a researched article. You could analyze the portrayal of women (or men) on a particular drama or situation comedy using the Douglas or Fazzone article. Or, you could discuss issues of reality in Newlyweds and reality television in general by using the Bissell article and a researched article. You could discuss issues of hard and soft news on the 5:00 o'clock WAVE 3 broadcast by using the Rapping article and a researched research. With nine articles and innumerable television programs and news sources, the possibilities are rich.


You will write two drafts of this paper: first, an ungraded draft that will be responded to by me and your peers (note that the peer response issues and groups are different for this paper: see peer response guidelines), and second, a final, graded draft that revises the first draft.

Annotated Bibliography

An annotated bibliography is a list of secondary sources that includes summaries of those materials. Before your final paper is due, you will compose an annotated bibliography of the research materials that you might use in Paper 3. Use this research handout to guide your search.

  1. Thesis in Progress: In a few sentences, state your tentative thesis in progress and the question that is guiding your research. You will be asked to share this with the class.
  2. Summary of Findings: In at least 250 words, summarize your findings. What are scholars and critics saying about your topic?
  3. 8 Secondary Sources

Before you finish your annotated bibliography, we will meet individually to discuss your research topic and progress. All conferences will take place in my office, Bingham Humanities Bldg 335A.


Monday, 4-11
Brandy Snider
Terrence Williams
David Thomas
Kimi Amy
Heather Buzzelli
Jennetha Murphy
Chris Crawford
John Buckman
Ryan Culligan
Anne Ballard
Kate Fearneyhough
Evan Wheeler
Eric Weiner
Julie Fisher
Sean Killen

Wednesday, 4-13

Justin Hilliard
Patricia Boelsher
Katie Allison
Kristen Bertke
Adam Steckler
Corey Caldwell
George Smith
Matt Stone
Ryan Culligan
Thursday, 4-14
John Buckman
Friday, 4-15
Christine Steiner

Paper 3

In the first paper, you summarized and evaluated a single article on pop culture consumerism, and in the second paper you used two articles to back up your own analysis of a television show or news outlet. In the third paper, you will analayze and research a focused topic of your choosing in the arena of popular culture, but not one you previously wrote a formal paper on. You must rigorously analyze the semiotic meaning of the pop culture phenomenon, and you must use at least four research sources to help support your analysis of the issue. Our three units on the American dream of consumerism; the news; and television, film, and literature have covered a broad range of issues in popular culture; and so you have many issues from which to choose within the course. You may also select a focused popular culture topic from outside the course such as, but not limited to, music or sports. You should narrow your broad topic to a manageable and focused issue or phenomenon. I suggest you clear your topic with me before beginning your annotated bibliography.

Research Paper Topics


Katie Allison Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman
Kimi Amy the relationship between pornography and aggression
Anne Ballard conspicuous consumption
Kristen Bertke negative effects of fashion industry on teenage girls
Patricia Boelscher home shopping branding of consumer identity
John Buckman music and advertising synergy
Heather Buzzelli the effect of celebrity culture on teen identity
Corey Caldwell SUV culture
Chris Crawford portrayal of African-American women in television and music videos
Ryan Culligan classic vs modern/contemporary rock
Kate Fearneyhough media bias in the nightly news
Julie Fisher dieting culture
Justin Hilliard the stereotypes vs reality of racing culture
Sean Killeen social construction of identity through ads
Jennetha Murphy portrayal of African-American women in television and music videos
George Smith the commodification of the internet
Brandy Snider teen plastic surgery
Adam Steckler stereotypes of youth culture
Christine Steiner the influence of Latin music on mainstream music
Matt Stone sports culture
Dave Thomas video games and identity formation
Eric Weiner portrayal of women in music imagery, lyrics, and and videos
Evan Wheeler SUV culture
Terrence Williams either the branding of pop stars or celebrity worship