Popular culture studies set to be a hit

New Dal and King’s minor will cover everything from Downton Abbey to Abbey Road

Popular culture studies coordinator—and vinyl collector—Jacqueline Warwick (Photo: Matthew Ritchie)
Popular culture studies co-ordinator—and vinyl collector—Jacqueline Warwick (Photo: Matthew Ritchie)

Ever wonder what vampires and the history of rock ‘n’ roll have in common? What about the works of J. R. R. Tolkien and graphic novels?

A new minor at Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College plans to answer these questions.

The College of Arts and Science’s new popular culture studies minor will give students a chance to connect through an array of courses that would otherwise seem unconnected.

The new program came about after faculty realized students were choosing electives from a variety of disciplines, creating educational experiences they weren’t getting credit for out of their usual major requirements.

As popular culture based research also accumulated among faculty members, professors saw the need for a new minor that acknowledged this work.

“It’s a way of recognizing that students themselves have been forming their own research and learning interests,” says Jason Haslam, associate professor of English. “This is a way of allowing us to recognize the work that the students are already doing.”

The minor will cross multiple departments, with classes being offered in contemporary and early modern studies, music and theatre, even journalism.

“Students are looking for ways to draw connections among disparate interests that they have,” says Donna Rogers, associate dean for Dalhousie’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

But professors add this is more than pop culture appreciation. Students will expand their critical analysis, analyzing popular culture through a variety of methodologies that steer away from tired old arguments regarding “high” and “low” culture.

“There’s a certain kind of cultural literacy that educated people want to have and popular culture is really central to that,” says Jacqueline Warwick, co-ordinator of popular culture studies and associate professor in music and gender and women studies at Dalhousie University. “That’s the kind of thing that binds us all together. If you’re not watching Downton Abbey, you’re missing out on a lot of conversations.”

Outside of expanding critical thinking on an academic level, faculty say the minor could benefit students on the job front as well. Haslam says the skills learned in popular culture studies could be applied to all facets of the arts and culture industry, whether it’s working in film, television, or writing science fiction (which Haslam knows a thing or two about).

“In general terms, having a wider and deeper understanding of popular culture and its functions will open up people’s choices,” he says.

Once senate passes the course requirements, the minor will become available after July, allowing students enrolled in university for the fall 2013 school year to use previously completed courses towards the new minor.

And students are taking notice. Although Dalhousie and King’s 62 new minors were only officially launched on Jan. 14, Warwick says she’s already received three emails from students interested in the program.

“It might not sound like a lot to some people, but I think it’s a surprising sign of interest,” she says. “I would have done it as an undergrad.”



One thought on “Popular culture studies set to be a hit

  1. I expect that this new minor at Dal will be extremely popular. After all, it’s been working as an entire department (Cultural Studies) at MSVU for almost a decade.

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