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MUS 279
American Pop Orientalism Fall 2020
Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity

Class Details

This tutorial will investigate the representation of Asians and Asian Americans in American popular culture since the late nineteenth century. Our focus will be on music’s role in Orientalist representation in a wide variety of media and genres, including Hollywood film, television, popular song, music videos, Broadway musicals, hip hop, and novels. We will begin with major texts in cultural theory (Said, Bhabha) and will attempt throughout the semester to revise and refine their tenets. Can American Orientalism be distinguished in any fundamental way from nineteenth-century European imperialist thought? How does Orientalist representation calibrate when the “exotic others” being represented are themselves Americans? Our own critical thought will be sharpened through analysis and interpretation of specific works, such as Madame Butterfly, “Chinatown, My Chinatown,” Sayonara, Flower Drum Song, Miss Saigon, Rising Sun, M. Butterfly, Aladdin, and Weezer’s Pinkerton. We will end the semester by considering the current state of Orientalism in American popular culture.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 2522
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: five 5- to 6-page essays and five critical oral responses
Prerequisites: previous related coursework and/or musical experience is desirable, but is not required
Enrollment Preferences: students with prior related course experience
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
WS Notes: Students will receive detailed comments on each paper, allowing them to build upon those comments in subsequent writing assignments. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
DPE Notes: Students will develop analytical and interpretive skills applicable to their future engagements with a wide range of art forms as we investigate the musical, literary, and visual techniques employed in works of exotic representation. We will focus on how popular culture has shaped and reflected perceptions of race and gender in American history since the late 19th century.

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