2024 - Fall

Cultural Conversation

Course Number: JOUR-GA 1181.001

Day & Time: Mon | 10:00 AM – 1:00 PM

Location: 20 Cooper Square, Room 700

Instructor: Katie Roiphe

The primary purpose of this course is to inculcate habits of thinking that are vital to informed and intelligent cultural reporting and criticism. This does not mean that students will be taught “theories” of cultural writing, which they can then apply to their “practice.” Rather, the point is that your thought process-as you write a piece, as you prepare to write it, or even before that, as you go through your daily life in a world full of potential subject matter-is an integral part of your work as a writer. We all carry on some kind of conversation with ourselves, and with the people we know, about the culture we live in. As writers, however, our task is to self-consciously translate that private conversation into a public one that connects with readers. In this course I ask you to address two questions that bear on this translation. One is historical: what has been said in the cultural conversation before you came to it? To find your place in the conversation (just as you would have to do if you joined a roomful of people talking) you will need to grapple with cultural issues and debates that go back half a century-debates about the nature of art and criticism, technology and mass media, high culture versus mass culture, art and politics, social groups and cultural difference. The second question is personal: what experiences, ideas, emotions, and prejudices do you bring to the conversation? While conventional news writers are simply expected to put their own attitudes aside, cultural journalists must be conscious of their standpoint and its impact on their observation and judgment. Your credibility and the power of your literary voice depend a good deal on your ability to develop this capacity for self-reflection. Open to CRC students only.