Today’s Class


Here are some of the things we talked about in our class:

We discussed Lady Gaga and Feminism. Here are some of the songs that came up:

Note — Paparazzi is a video for 19+ viewers, so I can only link the full version. It’s here.

I mentioned Janelle Monäe briefly. The video I was talking about (where she wears a tuxedo, recalling Josephine Baker and contrasting with plenty of American female celebrities) is this one:

(But apparently Monäe wears tuxedoes for all her performances, and regards it as her work clothes… so it’s not just this video.)

I asked you to think about the differences and similarities between the 된장녀 and the Flapper Girl for next time. Go ahead and write 500 words about it for me, please.

Finally, I can understand if some of you felt my response was uncooperative to Hoonil’s comments today. It is neither pleasant nor fun to be criticized by a student in front of a class — especially to someone responding to my comments about a class he wasn’t even present for, and especially when one is putting as much work into a class as I have been into our class. (If you think I’m making you work hard, what do you think I’m doing?)

The comments made were especially hard to accept given that from the discussion I saw in class — mentions of fashion from the days of the flappers, and dance styles — some students really did read the texts the way I suggested, skimming generally and then picking and choosing whatever was to their interest. I urged you to read more and continue, and to discuss more, because in contrast to those students, some students did not speak at all, and gave no sign of having read anything. (Not even a single chapter.)

I am doubtful that it is common behavior for students to criticize professors’ approach to teaching in all Korean classrooms, and do not appreciate “special treatment.” I am quite amenable to discussing difficult of readings but there is a time and a place for raising the question… just as I do not criticize students’ work in front of the class, I expect students with criticisms and concerns would be polite and thoughtful enough to talk to me in person before or after class, or during my office hours.

And quite frankly, I stand by what I said about the necessity of reading — reading a lot. If you want to learn, you must be constantly reading — indeed, you must read far more than I have ever asked you to read. (Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you.) I also stand by my intentions for your learning to work with large amounts of material, picking and choosing what you will focus on and what you will skim — something I have mentioned in our class a few times. These are skills that many other professors have told/shown me students can develop, if they are called to do so, and I have seen whole classes develop those skills when they put their mind to it. And… those skills are very useful out in the world, believe it or not.

(Indeed, some parts of today’s discussion — where specific students participated — reflected my belief that some of you ARE indeed developing those skills.)

I am unwilling to completely reverse my approach, because frankly I don’t want to be the kind of professor that spends a semester throwing softballs at students — that is, going through the motions of teaching but actually just chit-chatting about things without serious challenges for students. (I have the impression that for those who want such courses, they are available.)

While I may seem like a tough professor by your standards, but judging by my own standards, I’m relatively moderate. Those who feel driven to complain might ask themselves whether my standards are too tough, or their own standards are perhaps too lax.

But at the same time, I have been thinking since midterms about how maybe another approach to this study of pop culture might be possible, where we focus on things that interest you toward the end of the course. There are problems with that approach too, but maybe it would help you to have the motivation to really dig hard and deep into the material.

We have only a few weeks of class left (minus next Thursday’s class, which is during the university festival). We will probably spend the last week of class doing presentations of your final papers.

Next week’s class will be taken up discussing the flappers. But this leaves us with a few weeks to explore other things. Do you want to:

  • keep going as we have been? (looking at the history of American popular cultures?)
  • refocus on more recent pop culture, of your own choosing?
  • do something else altogether?

I warn you now: if you want to refocus, I will be asking you to take some of the responsibility — suggesting readings, suggesting topics, and so on. If you want a change, you’re going to have to participate in it as well.

I’m going to give you a chance to express your view here. I expect every student will go ahead and vote.

Comments are closed.