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The World is a Text

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The book teaches readers the usefulness of learning to actively "read" their surroundings. The new edition features a greatly expanded section on writing, editing, and making arguments. #xA0;This cultural studies reader directly engages the process of reading and writing about the #x1C;texts#x1D; one sees in everyday life. Using the lenses of rhetoric, semiotics and cultural studies, students are encouraged to become effective academic writers while gaining deeper insights into such popular culture categories as movies, technology, race, ethnicity, television, media, relationships,#xA0;public space, and more.#xA0;For anyone who enjoys provocative and engaging material, and is interested in developing an appreciation for diverse cultural literary works.

Table of Contents


Alternative Table of Contents  





Reading, Writing, Culture, and Texts: An Introduction to the Introduction   

Semiotics: The Study of Signs (and Texts)    

Systems of Reading: Making Sense of Cultural Texts    

The “Semiotic Situation” (or the “Moving Text”)    

Texts, the World, You, and Your Papers    

Rhetoric: Writing’s Soundtrack    

From Rhetoric to Writing    

Reading the World as a Text: Writing’s Overture. Three Case Studies    

Case Study 1–Reading Public Space: Starbucks    

Case Study 2–Reading Fonts: How Type Can Say a Lot About Type    

Case Study 3–Can We Laugh?: Reading Art and Humor in Geico Commercials    

 Reading This Text as a Text: Tips on Using this Book    

The World Is a Text: Writing    

The World Is a Text: Reading    



             A Short Guide to The World Is a Text: Writing    

Part I.          

"How Do I Write a Text for College? Making the Transition from High School Writing " by Patty Strong     


Part II.         

"From Semiotics to Lenses: Finding an Approach for Your Essays"  by Dean Rader and Jonathan Silverman    

Lenses, Microscopes, and Windows    

Language and Elements of Literary Interpretation    

Context, Historical and Otherwise    

Race, Class, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Region, Age–and More    

Academic Disciplines    

Landing on an Approach: An Entrée to the Essay Itself    


Part III.       

How Do I Write About Popular and Visual Culture Texts? A Tour Through the Writing Process    

Understanding the Assignment    

Freewriting and Brainstorming    


Constructing a Good Thesis    

Building an Opening Paragraph: A Case Study    

Building Good Paragraphs    

Drafting the Whole Essay    

Editing and Revising, Editing and Revising, Editing and Revising    

Turning in the Finished Product    


Part IV.       

How Do I Argue About Popular Culture Texts? A Guide for Building Good Arguments    

Knowing Your Arguments    

Making Claims    

Using Claims and Support to Make Arguments: Some Helpful Tips    

Synthesis: Pulling It All Together    

Know Your Audience    

Use Common Sense    


Part V.        

How Do I Get Info on Songs? Researching Popular Culture Texts    

Researching Nontraditional Texts: One Method    

Nuts and Bolts Research    

Guerilla Research    


Part VI.       

How Do I Know What a Good Paper Looks Like? An Annotated Student Essay    


 Part VII.      

How Do I Cite This Car? Guidelines for Citing Popular Culture Texts    

Using Parenthetical References    

Building the Works Cited Page    


Works Cited Examples    


Part VIII.     

How Am I a Text? On Writing Personal Essays    



1. Reading and Writing About the World Around You    


 Elisabeth Piedmont-Marton , "Reading and Writing About Fashion"    

    *How I Wrote This Essay

 Jonathan Hunt , "Reading and Writing About a Bicycle"    

 Peter Hartlaub , "Reading and Writing About Video Games"    

 Cristina DeLuca , "Reading and Writing About Social Networking Sites: Making Friends and Getting “Poked”"    

    *How I Wrote This Essay

 Lee Transue , "Reading and Writing About  Family Guy : The Semiotics of Stream of Consciousness"    

    *How I Wrote This Essay

 Brandon Brown , "Reading and Writing About a Laboratory"    

    *How I Wrote This Essay*

 Jonathan Silverman , "Reading and Writing About the Road"   

 Catherine Zimmer , "Reading and Writing About YouTube: The You in YouTube"    

 Dean Rader and Jonathan Silverman , "Reading and Writing About Advertising: Two Case Studies"    

 *Phil West, "Reading the Puffy Taco"  

 Reading Between the Lines    

 Classroom Activities    

 Essay Ideas    


2. Reading and Writing About Television    


 Katherine Gantz , "'Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That': Reading the Queer in  Seinfeld "    

    *How I Wrote My Essay–reader annotated.

Garance Franke-Ruta , "Beyond Fear:  Heroes vs. 24"    Student Essay:   Dave Rinehart, "Sex Sells: A Marxist Criticism of  Sex and the City "   

Student Essay: Dave Rinehart, "Sex Sells: A Marxist Criticism of Sex and the City"

Student Essay:   Hillary West , "Media Journal:  The Rosie O’Donnell Show "   


The Reality TV Suite

Laurie Ouelette and Susan Murray, "Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture" 

Student Essay:   Maribeth Theroux , "The NEXT Plague: MTV’s Sexual Objectification of Girls and Why It Must Be Stopped"    

*Thea Lim, "The Bachelor/Bachelorette’s White Elephant"

 Reading Between the Lines    

 Classroom Activities    

 Essay Ideas    


3.  Reading and Writing About Public and Private Space    


 *Liz Swanson, "Architecture, Experience and Meaning"

 *Dean Rader, "Reading the Rural" 

 Daphne Spain , "Spatial Segregation and Gender Stratification in the Workplace"    

 Bob Bednar , "Making Space on the Side of the Road: Towards a Cultural Study of Roadside Car Crash


   *How I Wrote This Article       


The Campus Suite

Dean Rader , Reading and Writing About Your Campus    

*Frances Halsband , "Campuses in Place"    

Student Essay:   Matthew King , "Reading the Nautical Star"    

*PHOTO ESSAY: Campuses


4. Reading and Writing About Race and Ethnicity    


 Beverly Daniel Tatum , "Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?"    

 Amy Tan , "Mother Tongue"    

 Jim Mahfood , "True Tales of Amerikkkan History Part II: The True Thanksgiving"    

 Zebedee Nungak , "Qallunaat 101: Inuits Study White Folks in This New Academic Field"    

 Teja Arboleda , "Race Is a Four-Letter Word"    

 Betty Shamieh, "Censoring Myself"    

 Student Essay:   Amy Truong , "Gender Expectations and Familial Roles Within Asian American Culture"    


Mini Suite: The Native American Mascot Issue

A Suite of Mascot Poems  by Leanne Howe    

A Suite of Cartoons 

 “Which One Is the Mascot?”    

 “But I’m Honoring You, Dude!”    

 “Pow Wow”    


*The Obama Suite

*James Taylor, "Target: Obama"

*Katia Bachko, "Professor Obama"

*Dean Rader, "Obama, CA"

 *Jonathan Silverman, "Obama and Fantasy Football"

Reading Between the Lines    

Classroom Activities    

Essay Ideas    



5. Reading and Writing About Movies    


 Roger Ebert , "Great Movies and Being a Great Moviegoer"    

 Jason Silverman , "Deciphering I,  Robot : Random Thoughts from an Evolving Film Reviewer"    

    *How I Wrote This Essay:*

 *Film as Cultural Commentary: Two Reviews from The Weekly Rader

        *Greg Barnhisel, "The Dark Knight"

        *Scott Andrews, "Smells Like Teen Superheroes" 

 Student Essay:   Whitney Black, "Star Wars  and America"    


*The Avatar Suite

*Stephanie Zacharek, "Avatar: Dances with Aliens"

*Slavoj }i~ek, "Return of the Natives"

*Mikhail Lyubansky, "The Racial Politics of Avatar"

*Ari Y Kelman, "Avatar and the Gluttony of Technology"

Reading Between the Lines    

 Classroom Activities    

 Essay Ideas    


Interchapter: Reading and Writing About Images     

*Photo Essay: Signs 

The American Signs on Route 66 Suite 



6. Reading and Writing About Gender    


Deborah Tannen, "Marked Women, Unmarked Men"    

Annette Fuentes ,"Out of Style Thinking: Female Politicians and Fashion"    

*Ariel Levy, "Girls Gone Wild: Girls Get Wild for T-Shirts and Trucker Hats"    

*STUDENT ESSAY: Pjeter Dushku, ¡”Vaya, Vaya, Machismo!:Almodóvar and Spanish Masculinity”

*PHOTO ESSAY: Judith Taylor, "Mannequins and Dolls"


 The Third Wave Feminism Suite 

 Patricia Pender, ‘Kicking Ass Is Comfort Food’: Buffy as Third Wave Feminist Icon    

Student Essay :  Catherine Kirifides, " Classically Different: Sofia Coppola’s  Marie Antoinette  Takes a New Look at

    What It Means to Be a Girl"    

    *How I Wrote This Essay

Student Essay:   Lara Hayhurst , "Putting the “Me” Back in Medical Drama:  Grey’s Anatomy’s  Adventures in


    *How I Wrote This Essay

Student Essay:   Gwendolyn Limbach, “'La Femme  Veronica': Intelligence as Power in  Veronica Mars"     

    *How I Wrote This Essay

 Reading Between the Lines    

 Classroom Activities    

 Essay Ideas    


7. Reading and Writing About Visual Art    


The “Is It Art?” Suite

*Eric Hongisto, "Reading a Mural: Diego Rivera's Man at the Crossroads" 

Diana Mack , "It Isn’t Pretty¼But Is It Art?"    

Steve Grody, "Graffiti: The Anatomy of a Piece"    

Student Essay: Theresa George , "The Multifaceted Nature of Street Art"    

*Student Essay: Anna Rose Tull, "No Sense of Absolute Corruption: Damien Hirst and the Art Question"

Scott McCloud , Sequential Art:  “Art”    


*PHOTO ESSAY: Public "Art?"


 The Reading a Photograph Suite

 Cheryl Aaron, "Reading a Photograph"

 Frank Rich, "Whatever Happened to the America of 9/12?"    

 David Plotz , "Frank Rich Is Wrong About That 9/11 Photograph: Those New Yorkers Weren’t Relaxing"    

 *Thomas Hoepker, I Took That 9/11 photo

 Gert Van Langendonck, "Award-Winning Photo Puts Subjects On Defensive"    

 Errol Morris , "Liar, Liar Pants on Fire"    

 *Student Essay:   Anne Darby, "Reading Cindy Sherman and Gender      

 Reading Between the Lines    

 Classroom Activities    

 Essay Ideas    


8. Reading and Writing About Music    


Alessandro Portelli, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”    

*David Byrne, "David Byrne's Survival Strategies for Emerging Artists - and Megastars"

Daniel Nester , "We Are the Champions, Another One Bites the Dust"    

    *How I Wrote my Poems

Student Essay:   Sarah Hawkins, "Right on Target: Revisiting Elvis Costello’s  My Aim Is True"     


    *How I Wrote My Essay


The Authenticity Suite

David Sanjek, "All the Memories Money Can Buy: Marketing Authenticity and Manufacturing Authorship"    

Carrie Brownstein, "More Rock, Less Talk: Live Music Turns Off the Voices in Our Heads"      

Stephen Metcalf, "Faux Americana: Why I Still Love Bruce Springsteen"    

 Reading Between the Lines    

 Classroom Activities    

 Essay Ideas    



9. Writing About the Media    


Robert Love, "Before Jon Stewart: The Growth of Fake News. Believe It"   

Chris Anderson, "The Long Tail" 

Clint C. Wilson and Felix Gutierrez, "Advertising and People of Color"    

Student Essay: Brittany Gray, "Hanes Her Way"    

William Lutz, "Weasel Words"    

Mark Glaser, "Techno-Optimism: 10 Reasons There’s a Bright Future for Journalism"    



*Virginia Heffernan, " The Google Alphabet: Googlealphabet"

*Nicholas Carr, "Is Google Making Us Stupid"

*Siva Vaidhyanathan, "No, Google Is Not Making Us Stupid"

 Reading Between the Lines    

 Classroom Activities    

 Essay Ideas    

 Assignment: The Rhetorical Analysis    


             10. Reading and Writing About Technology





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