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

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  • Edition: 8th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2015-01-09
  • 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.


Author Biography

The coeditors are successful textbook authors who, between them, have over fifty years of teaching experience in the college classroom. Sonia Maasik, a lecturer in the UCLA Writing Programs, has taught writing from developmental to advanced levels, and coordinates training for UCLA writing programs' teaching assistants. Jack Solomon, a professor of English at California State University, Northridge, teaches literature and critical theory, along with his graduate and undergraduate classes on popular cultural semiotics, and is often interviewed by the media for analysis of current events and trends. He is the author of The Signs of Our Time (1988) and Discourse and Reference in the Nuclear Age (1988).  The two together have published Signs of Life in the U.S.A.: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers, Sixth Edition (Bedford/St. Martin's, 2009) and California Dreams and Realities, Third Edition (Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2005).

Table of Contents

Signs of Life in the USA, 8th edition
Table of Contents
* = New to this edition
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]
          *Rose Sorooshian, The Walking 99 Percent: An Analysis of  The Walking Dead in the Context of the 2008 Recession [student essay]
          *Ryan Kim, A Reading of Gran Torino [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  
*[e-reading] Gene Brockhoff, Shop ‘Til You Drop [documentary film clip]
Anne Norton,
The Signs of Shopping    
Malcolm Gladwell,  The Science of Shopping
*Jon Mooallem, The Self-Storage Self
*Stephenie Clifford and Quentin Hardy, Attention, Shoppers: Store Is Tracking Your Cell
Thomas Hine, What’s in a Package
*James A. Roberts, The Treadmill of Consumption (from Shiny Objects)
Phyllis M. Japp and Debra K. Japp, Purification Through Simplification: Nature, the Good Life, and Consumer Culture
*Steve McKevitt, Everything Now
Thomas Frank, Commodify Your Dissent  

Chapter 2
Brought to You B(u)y: The Signs of Advertising
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
*[e-reading] Ford, Two-Ford Freedom [vintage TV ad]
Jennifer L. Pozner, Dove’s “Real Beauty” Backlash
Gloria Steinem, Sex, Lies, and Advertising
*Juliet B. Schor,  Selling to Children: the Marketing of Cool
*Joseph Turow, Introduction to The Daily You:  How the New Advertising Industry is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth
Julia B. Corbett, A Faint Green Sell: Advertising and the Natural World

*Portfolio of Advertisements

Chapter 3
Video Dreams: Television, Music, and Cultural Forms
*Nick Serpe, Reality Pawns: The New Money TV
*Claire Miye Stanford,
You’ve Got the Wrong Song: Nashville and Country Music Feminism
*Michelle Dean, Here Comes the Hillbilly, Again
* [e-readings] THIRTEEN, TV Gone Wrong [advertisements]
Carl Matheson, The Simpsons, Hyper- Irony, and the Meaning of Life
Natasha Simmons, Mad Men and the Paradox of the Past
*Jane Hu, Reality Hunger: On Lena Dunham’s Girls
*Willa Paskin, “Devious Maids” Skewers the One Percent
Neal Gabler, The Social Networks

Chapter 4
The Hollywood Sign: The Culture of American Film
Linda Seger, Creating the Myth
* [e-reading] Louis J. Gasnier and Arthur Hoerl, Reefer Madness [film clip]
* [e-reading] George A. Romero and John A. Russo, Night of the Living Dead [film clip]
Jessica Hagedorn,
Asian Women in Film: No Joy, No Luck
*Helena Andrews, “The Butler” vs. “The Help”: Gender Matters

Matt Zoller Seitz, The Offensive Movie Cliché that Won't Die
Michael Parenti, Class and Virtue
David Denby, High- School Confidential: Notes on Teen Movies
*Michael Agresta, How the Western Was Lost—And Why It Matters
*Christine Folch, Why the West Loves Sci-Fi and Fantasy:  A Cultural Explanation

Chapter 5
The Cloud:  Semiotics and the New Media
S. Craig Watkins, Fast Entertainment and Multitasking in an Always-On World 

International Center for Media & the Public Agenda,
Students Addicted to Social Media
*Simon Dumenco, If We’re All So Sick of You, Facebook, Why Can’t We Quit You?
danah boyd, Implications of User Choice: The Cultural Logic of MySpace or Facebook?
*Salvador Rodriguez, In the Digital Age, Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
*Richard Rushfield, Toward a Unified Theory of How the Internet Makes Everything Terrible
*Daniel D’Addario, Everything Is “Trolling” Now
Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture
* [e-reading] Ben Lewis, Polar Star Films, and BLTV, Google & the World Brain [documentary film clip]

*Chapter 6 
Heroes and Villains: Encoding Our Conflicts
Robert B. Ray, The Thematic Paradigm
*Stevie St. John, Out of Character: Wonder Woman’s Strength Is Her Humanity—What Happened?

*Laura Bennett,
Against Antiheroes
*Heather Havrilesky, No Sympathy for the Devil
*George Packer, Celebrating Inequality
*Noah Gittel, The Lone Ranger Seals It: America’s New Favorite Villain Is a Rich Guy
*Tim Layden, A Patriot’s Tale
*Lorraine Devon Wilke, Snowden’s a Hero, Obama’s a Villain
* [e-reading] U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, iGuardians [video]

Chapter 7
My Selfie, Myself: Constructing Identity in the Age of Entertainment
*Rachel Lowry, Straddling Online and Offline Profiles, Millennials Search for Identity 

Aaron Devor,
Gender Role Behaviors and Attitudes
Deborah Blum, The Gender Blur: Where Does Biology End and Society Take Over?
* [e-reading] Sut Jhally, The Codes of Gender [documentary film clip]
Kevin Jennings, American Dreams
Mariah Burton Nelson, I Won. I’m Sorry
Alfred Lubrano, The Shock of Education: How College Corrupts
Michael Omi, In Living Color: Race and American Culture
*Dani McClain, Being “Masculine of Center” while Black
*Theresa Celebran Jones, Sanjay and Craig: Nickelodeon’s Hilarious New Mixed-Race Heroes
*Aymar Jean Christian, The End of Post-Identity Television

Index of Authors and Titles

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