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

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  • Edition: 9th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2017-10-06
  • Publisher: Bedford/St. Martin's

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Signs of Life in the USA works in the classroom because students love to talk and write about popular culture. Signs of Life teaches students to read and write critically about pop culture by providing them with a conceptual framework known as semiotics, a field of study developed specifically for the interpretation of culture and its signs.

Signs of Life, written by a prominent semiotician and an experienced writing instructor, has been extensively updated to account for the rapid evolution of contemporary trends and student interests. It features insightful themes with provocative and current reading selections that ask students to think analytically about America’s popular culture with questions such as: How has niche advertising impacted minorities? How has have television and the Internet shaped our current political climate? Signs of Life provides students with the academic language necessary to analyze
the significance of our shared cultural experiences.


Table of Contents

Contents for Signs of Life, 9e

Preface for Instructors


Popular Signs: Or, Everything You Always Knew about American Culture (but Nobody Asked)

American Civil War
From Folk to For-Profit
Pop Culture Goes to College
The Semiotic Method
Abduction and Overdetermination
Interpreting Popular Signs: The War Against Everybody
The Classroom Connection
Of Myths and Men
Getting Started

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

*ELIJAH GREEN: Alfred Lubrano: The Shock of Myopia [student essay]

AMY LIN: Barbie: Queen of Dolls and Consumerism [student essay]

ROSE SOROOSHIAN: The Walking 99 Percent: An Analysis of The Walking Dead in the Context of the 2008 Recession [student essay]

Conducting Research and Citing Sources

SCOTT JASCHIK: A Stand against Wikipedia

PATTI S. CARAVELLO: Judging Quality on the Web

TRIP GABRIEL: For Students in Internet Age, No Shame in Copy and Paste


Chapter 1.

Consuming Passions: The Culture of American Consumption



ANNE NORTON: The Signs of Shopping

MALCOLM GLADWELL: The Science of Shopping

*MICHAEL POLLAN: Supermarket Pastoral

Credit Card Barbie [photograph]

JON MOOALLEM: The Self-Storage Self

*CHRIS ARNING: What Can Semiotics Contribute to Packaging Design?

JAMES A. ROBERT: The Treadmill of Consumption

STEVE McKEVITT: Everything Now

*TROY PATTERSON: The Politics of the Hoodie

THOMAS FRANK: Commodify Your Dissent


Chapter 2.

Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising

When You Come Home [advertisement]

JACK SOLOMON: Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising


JAMES B. TWITCHELL: What We Are to Advertisers

STEVE CRAIG: Men’s Men and Women’s Women

*JIA TOLENTINO: How "Empowerment" Became Something for Women to Buy

*ALEX MAYYASI: How Subarus Came to Be Seen as Cars for Lesbians

*JESSICA CONTRERA: Most Young People Don't Vote—Condescending to Them Doesn't Help

*KALLE OSKARI MATTILA: The Age of the Wordless Logo

JULIET B. SCHOR: Selling to Children: The Marketing of Cool

*STEPHANIE MILLER: The Power of Play: Gamification Can Change Marketing

JULIA B. CORBETT: A Faint Green Sell: Advertising and the Natural World

Portfolio of Advertisements


Buffalo Exchange

California Walnuts

Johnson’s Baby





Chapter 3.

On the Air: Television and Cultural Forms

NEAL GABLER: The Social Networks

PAIRED READINGS: Signifying Women on TV

*ANNA KESZEG: What Their Clothes Tell Us About Those Girls

CLAIRE MIYE STANFORD: You’ve Got the Wrong Song: Nashville and Country Music Feminism

*JOHN SHERMAN: The New Normative: Queer Politics in The Outs

*OLIVIA GOLDHILL: Trump Supporters Are Living in a Reality Shaped by Television

NICK SERPE: Reality Pawns: The New Money TV

*EMILY NUSSBAUM: The Aristocrats: The Graphic Arts of 'Game of Thrones"

*MASSIMO PIGLIUCCI: The One Paradigm to Rule Them All: Scientism and The Big Bang The Evolution of Rap


Chapter 4.

The Hollywood Sign: The Culture of American Film

ROBERT B. RAY: The Thematic Paradigm

PAIRED READINGS: Fantasy and Film

CHRISTINE FOLCH: Why the West Loves Sci-Fi and Fantasy: A Cultural Explanation

*ABRAHAM RIESMAN: What We Talk about When We Talk about Batman and Superman

LINDA SEGER: Creating the Myth

MATT ZOLLER SEITZ: The Offensive Movie Cliché That Won’t Die

HELENA ANDREWS: The Butler versus The Help: Gender Matters

Lee Daniels’ The Butler [movie poster]

JESSICA HAGEDORN: Asian Women in Film: No Joy, No Luck

MICHAEL PARENTI: Class and Virtue

MICHAEL AGRESTA: How the Western Was Lost — and Why It Matters

DAVID DENBY: High-School Confidential: Notes on Teen Movies


Chapter 5.

The Cloud: Semiotics and the New Media


PAIRED READINGS: The Digital Panopticon

*RONALD J. DEIBERT: Black Code: Surveillance, Privacy, and the Dark Side of the Internet

JOSEPH TUROW: The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth

*Erin Lee: How Effective is Social Media Activism?

*BRIAN DUNNING: Slacktivism: Raising Awareness

*BROOKE GLADSTONE: Influencing Machines: The Echo Chambers of the Internet

*JOHN HERRMAN: Inside Facebook's (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine

*TIMOTHY B. LEE: Pokemon Go is Everything that is Wrong with Late Capitalism

*NANCY JO SALES: From the Instamatic to Instagram: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers

*danah boyd: It's Complicated: MySpace vs. Facebook

*S. CRAIG WATKINS: The Evolution of #Black Twitter

Navigating On- and Offline Lives [photograph]


Chapter 6.

My Selfie, My Self: Identity and Ideology in the New Millennium

MICHAEL OMI: In Living Color: Race and American Culture


AARON DEVOR: Gender Role Behaviors and Attitudes

DEBORAH BLUM: The Gender Blur: Where Does Biology End and Society Take Over?

Gender Identity Online [photograph]

*JENNA WORTHAM: When Everyone Can be "Queer," is Anyone?

KEVIN JENNINGS: American Dreams

*ALEX WILLIAMS: Move Over, Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z

RACHEL LOWRY: Straddling Online and Offline Profiles, Millennials Search for Identity

*BRITTANY COOPER, Hollywood’s Post-Racial Mirage

*LILLIANA MASON: Why Are Americans So Angry This Election Season?


Chapter 7.

American Paradox: Culture, Conflict, and Contradiction in the U.S.A.


PAIRED READINGS: The Consequences of Contradictions

*JEFFREY FLEISHMAN: How an Angry National Mood is Reflected in Pop Culture

*JIM TANKERSLEY: Why the Upper Middle Class Might be the Real Target of Today's Anger

GEORGE PACKER: Celebrating Inequality

ALFRED LUBRANO: The Shock of Education



WADE GRAHAM: Are We Greening Our Cities, or Just Greenwashing Them?

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