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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2010

E 379S • Senior Seminar—Popular Music and Youth Subcultures-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
35160 MWF
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
PAR 302

Course Description

Only one of the following may be counted: E 376L (Topic 8: Popular Music and Youth Subcultures), 679HA (Popular Music and Youth Subcultures), 379S (Senior Seminar—Popular Music and Youth Subcultures). Given the near-total neglect of popular music by musicology (fixated on Western classical music), the academic study of popular music has been dispersed across a number of fields, including anthropology, communications, English, history, and sociology. I propose in this course to survey the variety of serious analytical approaches to popular music, from the formalist work of musicologists (on harmony, etc.) to anthropological studies like Sara Cohen's Rock Music in Liverpool. We will take, in essence, the tripartite approach of cultural studies, by covering production (i.e., the music business), texts, and audiences. The students' interest will dictate the genres covered, whether country & western, dance music (including house, techno, and so forth), hiphop, R & B, rock and roll, or worldbeat. This will not be a "history of rock and roll" class: I'm interested not in what year Elvis emerged, but in the question of what a sophisticated (i.e., academic) critical approach has to offer followers of contemporary music—and I should note that I'm not all that certain academics have much to offer.

Given my doubts about academic approaches to popular music, I will try to make the course of considerable utility, odd as it may sound, to the study of literature. In discussing subcultures (or audiences), for example, we will emphasize more generally the examination of the actual social uses of texts both musical and literary (along the lines of cultural studies). In paying close attention to musical form or style (especially the voice) as well, we will also develop a strong text-based critical approach. My own work with music criticism has led to a strong material orientation to literary language.

Grading Policy

Three 5-6-page papers, with substantial revision of the first two, culminating in an 18-to-25-page term paper: 85%; Class participation (including at least one oral presentation): 15%


Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin, On Record. Excerpted works include: Simon Frith, Performing Rites; Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces; Susan McClary, Feminine Endings; Tricia Rose, Black Noise; Robert Peterson, Creating Country Music; Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style; Deena Weinstein, Heavy Metal


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