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Anthropology E354
Popular Culture
Mid-term Exam
Fall 2008, Dr. Mullins

The mid-term exam is a take-home. You can use notes, books, discussion with class members or me, and any reference materials you find necessary. The exam is due TUESDAY, OCTOBER 28; any late exams will be penalized a letter grade each day. The exam can be turned in at any time before the deadline.

All essays must be typed on separate, double-spaced pages that are stapled together prior to being turned in. You are not required to include proper citations from course materials, but you should use those sources. Essays that are not thorough, clear, and persuasive will receive lower grades than more detailed essays. Please check spelling and grammar, you will be penalized for essays that have grammar errors or readability issues.

You must answer the first non-negotiable essay in Section I:  it is worth 40% of the midterm grade. The remaining questions are worth 20% each.  I expect the first essay to take two pages minimally, and the remaining essays about a page each.  You must answer one of the essays in Section II and one of the two essays in Section III, and you must answer the single essay in Section IV.  You can answer the extra credit question if you like, but its not required; it can be as long or short as you like, though to get a full five points you should expect to write a full essay response.

Email me if you have questions. 

Section I. Non-negotiable, oppressively detailed essay (you must answer this essay:  please be thorough)

A. What is popular culture? Specifically, how did we define it in class? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this definition? We’ve examined a handful of ways scholars view popular culture. How do these perspectives differ; for instance, how do they stress different subjects?; how are they influenced by different theories (e.g., symbolism, Marxism, etc)?; and so on.

Section II. Multiple choice essays (you can answer any one of the following three essays)

B. Semiotics and Marxism are two fundamental bodies of theory in popular culture scholarship. What are the central features of each theory as outlined in class? What does each contribute to scholarship on popular culture?

C. How does Dick Hebdige define a subculture? What does he argue is a subculture's relationship to dominant, "parent" culture? How does style figure in subcultures? What does Hebdige suggest is the common if not inevitable fate of subcultures?

D. How does Simon Frith define the distinctions between 1950s "teenage culture" and 1960s "youth culture"? Which does he conclude had more significant political effects, and why? How is punk subculture different from and/or similar to these earlier youth music subcultures?

Section III. Essays on the South (you can answer either one of the following two essays).

E. How does Will Campbell define a "redneck"? How does Gael Sweeney define "white trash"? Why are Elvis and Elvis fans often called rednecks or white trash by the mainstream media? Why do mass media often link racism to rednecks? For Campbell, what are the implications of considering rednecks prejudiced, as opposed to racist?

F. In what ways does John Shelton Reed argue Elvis Presley was a typical Southerner? Why does Linda Ray Pratt argue Elvis is particularly compelling to Southerners? Why would Elvis' relatively typical Southern experience appeal to many fans, particularly fans who are not Southerners?

Section IV. Non-negotiable odd essay (you must answer this essay)

G. Your distant Aunt Gertrude, a Shakespeare scholar, shows up for Thanksgiving dinner at your place.  She quizzes you on your courses this Fall, and inevitably you reach your report on this class.  She has a lot of questions.  How do you explain to her that Elvis and popular culture are legitimate academic subjects? How do you explain that anthropologists should be interested in the Elvis phenomena in particular and popular culture in general?

Section V. Extra Credit (answer this essay for up to five extra points)

H. During your visit to the Star Trek convention, you become trapped in a temporal vortex and transported to Memphis in 1955, where you come face-to-face with Elvis.  At the risk of breaking the Prime Directive, you are allowed to ask him one question:  what do you ask, and why?

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Last updated October 15, 2008