“Culture” – claims its master theoretician Terry Eagleton – is “the second or third most complex word in the English language.” Is it about table manners or national heritage; is it a mark of distinction or a set of everyday practices; is it the same as “civilization” or the opposite of “nature”? What is more, the term’s complexity seems to imply a rich bouquet of study methods: Can we read a culture like a text? Can we analyze it like the psyche? Can we criticize it like an ideology? Or do we always need new and different approaches – for hegemonic Western culture, pop cultures, subcultures, queer cultures, postcolonial cultures? Accordingly, Cultural Studies draws on numerous fields of knowledge (including sociology, political sciences, history, anthropology, philosophy, literary and media studies) and also on a variety of models that precede the so-called “cultural turn” and official establishment of the discipline.

In light of such diversity, this introductory course wants to find the (ideal) balance between overview and detail. On the one hand, we will discuss groundbreaking texts from the pre-war period to the present to get to know many of the canonical concepts of Cultural Studies as well as its currently emerging ideas – not by adhering to traditional theoretical categories (like “Marxism”, “Structuralism”, “Postmodernism” …) but by exploring areas of interest such as signs and bodies, space and race. On the other hand, we will test and apply cultural theories to all kinds of material, from music videos or motel rooms to Vienna’s famous Sacher cake.