PRIZES AND POPULAR CULTURE
2012/2013, Semester 2
Non-Faculty-Based Departments (Ctr For English Language Communication)
Modular Credits: 4
Ideas and Exposition
In this writing course students will read, debate, and write about prizes, ranging from the
, to reality shows such as
, including students’ personal favourites. Students will consider the role that prizes play in shaping taste, how prizes evolve to respond to different cultural and historical contexts, and what they reflect about modern culture. Students will enter into a debate about the meaning of prizes by analysing popular and scholarly texts, visiting websites and watching films. In this small-class, interactive environment, the tutor will support students in honing reading and writing skills, while becoming sensitive to different rhetorical strategies.
Students must have passed/been exempted from the NUS Qualifying English Test (QET) or have passed CELC English for Academic Purposes modules.
These are interactive classes in which student participation is essential. Students will be expected to come to class prepared to discuss prescribed texts, films and newsworthy events related to the topic. The emphasis on good communication relates to both speaking and writing, with emphasis on the latter.
Every time we listen to music or watch a film or read a book we are consciously or subconsciously passing judgement on it. What is it that makes one person love a film, and another hate it? To what extent are we influenced by our peers, figures of authority or the media in developing a taste for certain works of art and not for others? (A high profile example of a single person influencing reading taste is Oprah Winfrey through her Book Club.)
Think of prizes today and certain spectacular events spring to mind: the Oscars (and their fashions),
(and the love-to-hate-him character of Simon Cowell – now already part of history), the Booker (and its scandals) and the Tate (and its controversies).
In the world of art prizes there is no clear starting and finishing line that allows for a clear and objective winner. Although competitions advertise their unbiased and objective judging process, this course will consider to what extent this is true, or even possible. There is certainly a growing interest in the process of evaluating and we watch in fascination as competitions in writing, acting, clothes designing, singing and dancing are increasingly played out in the media for public comment and criticism.
There are prizes for which the judges remain a powerful, but obscure force, such as the Nobel Prize. However, very often we, the viewers, are invited to be judges. In the case of
, the judging process has been largely democratized. Is the intention to be deliberately non-elitist? Certainly, there appears to be less control over the process. Because the buyer of the ultimate product of
(downloads, music CDs and DVDs) is the ‘ordinary person’ in the person of the voter, the cynic may conclude that the intention is to allow popular taste to dictate because popular taste will consume the product of its choice. It takes away a lot of financial risk.
Are there competitions that you are avid followers of, perhaps
Strictly come Dancing
Asia’s Biggest Loser
, the Golden Horse Awards, the Oscars, the Booker prize in literature, or the Nobel prize?
What draws you to these competitions? Do you agree with the choice of winner? What do you think of the judges? What do you know about them? In conversations with friends about the competitors do you find yourself straying from judging the talent to commenting on other factors: the personality of the participant, his/her clothes, personal life, culture, religion, sexual orientation? To what extent do you think judges are swayed by these external factors? What do you know about the sponsors of these prizes and their role in influencing decisions? How important do you think the role of the media is in guiding public taste and making or breaking the careers of finalists?
In this course we will read a variety of texts: academic journals, films, video clips, newspaper articles, online reviews, competition websites and blogs. We will study articles written by people intrigued by contradictions in the process of judging a winner. You will be invited to participate in this debate and identify issues and examples that you find fascinating enough to warrant research and analysis.
See IVLE workbin for the course syllabus
Paper 1: Reflective Summary = 15%
Paper 2: Comparative Analysis = 25%
Paper 3: Expository Essay = 40%
Participation (10%). Participation involves:
: On-time arrival in class and regular contribution to class activities and discussion.
: Students have to be present in order to participate, so attendance will affect this portion of the grade.
Short writing exercises:
In addition, students will occasionally be asked to write a paragraph on a reading or a screening for workshopping in class. Facebook participation will also be expected, as well as active peer reviewing.
Students who have already read a WP2201 or IEM module.
This course includes 4 contact hours per week, divided into two tutorials. Reading, research, assignments and general preparation make up an additional 6 hours a week.