Signs of Life in the USA : Readings on Popular Culture for Writers

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  • Edition: 7th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2011-11-21
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's

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Signs of Life in the USAteaches students to read and write critically about popular culture by giving them a conceptual framework to do it: semiotics, a field of critical theory developed specifically for the interpretation of culture and its signs. Written by a prominent semiotician and an experienced writing instructor, the text's high-interest themes feature provocative and current reading selections that ask students to think analytically about America's impressive popular culture: How is TV's Mad Mena lightning rod for America's polarized political climate? Has the nature of personal identity changed in an era when we spend so much of our lives online? Signs of Lifebridges the transition to college writing by providing students with academic language to talk about our common, everyday cultural experience.

Author Biography

Sonia Maasik is a lecturer in the UCLA Writing Programs, where she has taught writing from developmental to advanced levels.
Jack Solomon is professor of English at California State University, Northridge, and teaches literature and critical theory. He is often interviewed by the California media for analysis of current events and trends.
The two together also have published California Dreams and Realities: Readings for Critical Thinkers and Writers, Third Edition.

Table of Contents

Preface for Instructors
Popular Signs: Or, Everything You Always Knew about American Culture (but Nobody Asked)
Writing about Popular Culture
Using Active Reading Strategies
Prewriting strategies
Developing Strong Arguments about Popular Culture
Conducting a Semiotic Analysis
Reading Visual Images Actively
Reading Essays about Popular Culture
Amy Lin, Barbie:  Queen of Dolls and Consumerism [student essay]
*Laurie Boloven, House Calls, and What Is It Saying? [student essay]
David Goewey, “Careful, You May Run Out of Planet”: SUVs and the Exploitation of the American Myth [student essay]
Conducting Research and Citing Sources
Scott Jaschik
, A Stand against Wikipedia
Patti S. Caravello, Judging Quality on the Web
*Trip Gabriel, Plagiarism Lines Blur for Students in Digital Age
Synthesizing Sources
Chapter 1
Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption
Laurence Shames
, The More Factor   
     Malcolm Gladwell
The Science of Shopping
     Anne Norton, The Signs of Shopping     
*Mark Dery, Dawn of the Dead Mall
Credit Card Barbie
Thomas Hine, What’s in a Package
Joan Kron, The Semiotics of Home Decor
*Andrea Chang, Teen “Haulers” Become a Fashion Force
*S. Craig Watkins, Fast Entertainment and Multitasking in an Always-On World
*John Verdant, The Ables vs. The Binges
*Tammy Oler, Making Geek Chic
Thomas Frank, Commodify Your Dissent   
Chapter 2
Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising

Roland Marchand, The Parable of the Democracy of Goods
When You Come Home
James B. Twitchell, What We Are to Advertisers 
Steve Craig, Men’s Men and Women’s Women
*Minette E. Drumright and Patrick E. Murphy, How Advertising Practitioners View Ethics: Moral Muteness, Moral Myopia, and Moral Imagination
Jennifer L. Pozner, Dove’s “Real Beauty” Backlash
Eric Schlosser, Kid Kustomers
*Julia B. Corbett, A Faint Green Sell: Advertising and the Natural World
*Alan Foliambe, Car Advertising—Dominating Nature
Portfolio of Advertisements
Chapter 3
Video Dreams: Television, Music, and Cultural Forms

Francine Prose, Voting Democracy off the Island: Reality TV and the Republican Ethos
James Harold, A Moral Never- Never Land: Identifying with Tony Soprano
Carl Matheson, The Simpsons, Hyper- Irony, and the Meaning of Life
*Stephen Garrett, Why We Love TV's Anti-heroes 
*Natasha Simmons, Mad Men and the Paradox of the Past
*Rita Koganzon, All Camped Out:  How “Glee” Became a Preachy After-School Special
Andy Medhurst, Batman, Deviance, and Camp
Jaime J. Weinman, Fox News Attempts to Get Funny
*Drake Bennett, Guiding Lights:  How Soap Operas Can Save the World
*Neal Gabler, The Social Networks
*Roland Laird, "The Boondocks": Carrying On the Tradition of Subversive Black Comedy

Chapter 4
The Hollywood Sign: The Culture of American Film

Robert B. Ray, The Thematic Paradigm
Linda Seger, Creating the Myth
Jessica Hagedorn, Asian Women in Film: No Joy, No Luck
*Hirsh Sawhney, An Idiot's Guide to India
*Matt Zoller Seitz, The Offensive Movie Cliché that Won't Die
*Mitu Sengupta, Race Relations Light Years from Earth
*Bob Samuels, Inception as Deception
Michael Parenti, Class and Virtue
David Denby, High- School Confidential: Notes on Teen Movies
Vivian C. Sobchack, The Postmorbid Condition
Reservoir Dogs [MOVIE POSTER]
*Umberto Eco, Casablanca, or Cliches Are Having a Ball
Chapter 5
You-Topian Dreams: Semiotics and the New Media

Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture
Steven Johnson
, It’s All about Us   
Brian Williams, Enough about You
*danah boyd, Implications of User Choice: The Cultural Logic of MySpace or Facebook?
*Ian Daly, Virtual Popularity Isn't Cool—It's Pathetic
* International Center for Media & the Public Agenda, Students Addicted to Social Media
*Zac Waggoner, Video Games, Avatars, and Identity
A.B. Harris, Average Gamers Please Step Forward
Master Chief Waits in Line
*Jonathan Rauch, How the Tea Party Is Rewriting the Rule Book for Political Organizing
Chapter 6
American Paradox: Culture, Conflict, and Contradiction in the U.S.A.

David Brooks, One Nation, Slightly Divisible
*Barbara Ehrenreich, Introduction from Bright-Sided
Jack Solomon, Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising
*Phyllis M. Japp and Debra K. Japp, Purification Through Simplification: Nature, the Good Life, and Consumer Culture
“Leave Area Clean”
Mariah Burton Nelson, I Won. I’m Sorry.
Randall Kennedy, Blind Spot
Alfred Lubrano, The Shock of Education: How College Corrupts
*Daniel Mackay, The Magic of the Anti-Myth
Richard Corliss, The Gospel According to Spider- Man
*Murray Milner, Jr., Freaks, Geeks, and Cool Kids

Chapter 7
American Makeover:  Constructing Identity in the Age of Entertainment

Michael Omi, In Living Color: Race and American Culture
*Stuart Buck, Acting White
Angeline F. Price, Working Class Whites
Jack Lopez, Of Cholos and Surfers
Jim Whitmer, Four Teens [PHOTOGRAPH]
Nell Bernstein, Goin’ Gangsta, Choosin’ Cholita
Melissa Algranati, Being an Other
Aaron Devor, Gender Role Behaviors and Attitudes
Deborah Blum, The Gender Blur: Where Does Biology End and Society Take Over?
Kevin Jennings, American Dreams
*Andrew Sullivan, My Big Fat Straight Wedding
Index of Authors and Titles

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