Return to Popular Culture Syllabus

The final will be an open notes, open book exam which will include a series of essay questions selected from the questions included here. You can outline readings, prepare detailed notes, work from classroom notes, or organize any other materials that will help you structure and answer the essays. You can borrow notes from other people in the class to help fill out things that may be incomplete in your own notes, but you should not plan to share notes or other materials during the exam period itself.

I will select a series of essays along the lines of those appearing below, and they will appear on the final in a similar form as they are here. Nevertheless, I reserve the right to ask other questions drawn from the notes or readings, so you should come to the exam period prepared to perhaps face one or two new questions that may come from any point in the semester.  I suggest you bring along your course readings if you need them to remind you of anything.

The final will be in the normal classroom on Thursday December 11 at 1:00. Forgetting the exam period will be a cause for great sympathy, but it will not constitute a reasonable excuse for not making an appearance. Please remember to bring sufficient paper for essays as well as an extra writing implement of choice--by some evil quirk of fate, pens often expire in essay exams--, and do not bring along chiming pagers, cell-phones, or otherwise annoying noisemakers.  You may prepare your final exam on a laptop if you so choose, but be prepared to print it afterward or provide me a hard disc copy in a file format I can read (RTF is usually fine), and of course the computer could crash during the exam, so be prepared to write manually.

1. What is popular culture? Why should anthropologists be interested in popular culture? Why should anthropologists consider the social symbolism surrounding Elvis Presley a subject worthy of anthropological study?

2. Since the mid-1980s MTV has constructed a concept that it calls "rock culture." What does this mean, and what are the features of this "culture"? Why is MTV so invested in championing the notion of a "rock culture"?

3. What is Pentacostalism? What are its central features? How can we see the impact of these things on Elvis Presley's life and music?

4. Gary Vikan uses the concept of civil saint to describe Elvis Presley's contemporary following. What is a civil saint? How is it different from the traditional definition of a Christian saint?  What is a locus sanctus? In what specific ways does the visitation to Graceland resemble a pilgrimage?

5. Elvis' following is today often referred to as a "religion" that is in its emergent stages, something akin to a cult. Precisely what is a cult, and how can it achieve the status of religion? How could Elvis' following achieve a status similar to that accorded organized religions? Who are the analogs to "priests" in this cult, and why?

6. Elvis Presley came along at a critical historical moment in the popular music industry. What were the key changes within the musical industry and society at large in the 1950s?

Email Dr. Mullins at paulmull@iupui.edu

Return to Popular Culture Syllabus

Last updated December 1, 2008