April 22, 2010

English Department Offers New Concentration

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Next fall, the English department will begin offering a new concentration in cultural studies to English majors. The concentration will allow students to study different mediums and forms of culture, including literature, film, the Internet and music in terms of “historical, social, and political contexts,” according to the English department’s website. The concentration is not a full minor and is only available to English majors.

“The field of cultural studies examines how culture makes a difference in how we live, and how differences in how we live make culture,” Prof. Debra Fried, English, said in an e-mail. “If you take an active interest in how any form of culture shapes your response to everyday life, you’re already beginning to think and question as cultural studies invites you to do.”Students who chose a concentration in cultural studies will be able to study nearly anything that impacts society and the cultures of different regions and time periods. Examples could include anything from comparing Ithaca’s coffee shops to how a “news anchor’s hairdo and clothing can contribute subtly to how the news is ‘spun’ on a TV news report,” Fried said. However, she clarified, cultural studies is not “a big, fuzzy theory of everything.”The English Department has chosen now to add this concentration because of the recent addition to the department of Profs. Jane Juffer, English, and Grant Farred, English and Africana Studies. Both are experts in the field of cultural studies, according to Fried. Additionally, the concentration will require no extra costs or professors, according to Prof. Ellis Hanson, English and chair of the department.“We like to highlight certain possible concentrations, and especially when we’ve recently hired new faculty who specialize in a particular field,” Fried said. She added that the department plans to hire a poetry expert in the near future, which will allow them to place renewed emphasis on the pre-existing poetry and poetics concentration.Students wishing to complete a concentration in cultural studies must complete three classes in the field. Options include both new courses such as “Theories of Popular Culture,” taught by Juffer, as well as returning courses such as the popular “Food, Gender, Culture,” taught by Prof. Mary K. McCullough, English and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies.English majors are excited by the prospect of a new field of study, particularly one so relevant.“Right now I’m a medieval studies concentration. I feel like if I have the opportunity to do a cultural concentration it really opens everything up because everything runs into each other,” Emily Ruzbarsky ’12 said.“Freshman year, actually, I signed up for a cultural studies writing seminar,” Tom Naples ’11, and English major, said. “I really did enjoy it. It exposed me to a different culture.” However, he noted  it is too late to change his concentration as a Junior, but that he would have considered cultural studies if it was available as an option when he was a freshman.

Original Author: Joseph Niczky