Class snapshot: ‘Introduction to American Popular Culture’

Monday, Jun 14, 2021
by Mary Cate Connors, Office of International Programs

This spring, 80 students — including international students from more than 30 countries from Albania to Zimbabwe, many in their first year at Princeton — focused both a historical and a critical lens on everything from novels and film to contemporary art and music in the new course “Introduction to American Popular Culture.”

The instructor: Jill Dolan, Dean of the College, the Annan Professor in English, and a professor of theater in the Lewis Center for the Arts.

“Given the sudden opportunity, I thought a course in American popular culture might be fun and interesting [particularly] for international students,” said Dolan. “One of the last courses I taught before becoming dean was in this field, so it’s relevant to my scholarship and my pedagogy.”

Thinking critically about the ways popular culture shapes identity: Each week, course participants were asked to think critically and creatively about a few major themes in American popular culture and to interrogate the ways in which specific cultural artifacts affect the lives of individuals and communities. The class syllabus notes that popular culture is not monolithic, but that its various manifestations implicitly prompt consumers to form and reshape their identities across various vectors including nationality, race, ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality.