2023-2024 Academic Catalog 
    Feb 21, 2024  
2023-2024 Academic Catalog

SCRN 217 - Cult Logics

Twin Peaks and Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Punk Rock and Hello Kitty.  Johnny Guitar and Eight Diagram Pole Fighter.  To study cult fandom is first of all to confront a shopworn cliché about human subjectivity: there’s no accounting for tastes.  The cult devotee’s pursuit is by definition a “minor” taste-at once marginal in subject and style, and hard to find as a material object.  Cult objects may be passive “sleepers”-films or TV shows we don’t expect to be any good but which turn around and surprise us.  More often, however, we encounter cult objects as transgressive confrontations: divisive, rude, and even boring, but above all oblivious to mainstream desires.  Cultism frequently valorizes bad taste, excess, and ugliness (or hyper-cuteness, as in Japanese kawaii culture), forcing the beholder to confront their own perversions and anxieties.  At the same time, in order to be a bona fide cultist, one has traditionally taken a vow of non-attainment: to pursue the esoteric beyond all reason.  But what happens when the well of esoterica runs dry, as it seems to be doing today, with every outré video freely available on Netflix and Amazon?  Does the wholesale commodification of cult products (think Hot Topic) paradoxically annihilate the possibility of cult pleasure?  By theorizing the self perpetuating beyond-ness of cult fandom, this course will implicitly call into question why cultists desire their own marginalization, subversively refusing conventional enjoyment.  One warning however: despite the garish allure of our readings and screenings, this course should not be mistaken as itself providing a “fun” or “entertaining” fan-oriented indulgence in the pleasures of cult representation.  Instead, this course will insist on nothing less than your most serious scholarly engagement as we work to theorize cult pleasure, taste, and aesthetics in relation to questions of gender, race, nation, and class.  So prepare to enjoy, but also prepare to work hard to understand the weirdness of your own enjoyment.

Prerequisites: SCRN 101  or COMM 101

Anticipated Terms Offered: Periodically