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Why Study Culture & Cultural Studies?

There is always a basic cultural component to the study of languages and their literatures. As such, every course in our department will entail a study of culture to different degrees. However, at the more senior levels of study, many of our courses deal with subject matters and approaches of inquiry which are closely aligned to the goals of the fields of Cultural Studies. These areas include, among others, women and gender studies as well as post-colonialist culture and literature. Cultural Studies is a multi-disciplinary and theoretical approach to the study of values, power-relations, identities and virtually every cultural manifestation or area of human expression and study of a society. While the study of culture at its most elementary level entails the learning of factual information such as the cultural habits, history, art, music, film, dance, food etc. and practices of a society, Cultural Studies theorizes and problematizes such phenomena from an interdisciplinary perspective which can include, but is not limited to, political thought, philosophy and psychology. Cultural Studies has a general tendency to point to the arbitrary nature of many social practices and reexamines many social and conceptual conventions with the goal of freeing intellectual inquiry from traditional boundaries and divisions such as theoretical critique and cultural production as well as academic activity and social activism. Its emphasis lies on the understanding of the underlying power relations which inform cultural practices and its goals are aligned to a project of global social change most conducive to the establishment of humanist principles such as justice and freedom. European theorists have played a key role in the development of this field and range from the German thinkers associated with the Frankfurt School to the French theorists of the latter half of the 20th century.

Students interested in this field should note that an introductory course to Cultural Studies is offered in English at the 200 level by the English Department. Such a course is recommended by the Department of Languages, Literatures, & Cultural Studies to student interested in this area of study and can be useful to the Cultural Studies component of several of our senior culture and literature undergraduate courses and increasingly so for graduate studies in French and other languages.