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CCI: Advertising, the Other (of) Literature?

Wednesday, 01:15 PM - 02:45 PM: GWZ 3 5.15
Spring Term 2017
Sebastian Herrmann

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Advertising may well constitute the most prolific form of mass communication, yet it is often shunned as an inferior form of writing. In this seminar, we will use this observation as a starting point to think about advertising as a textual system that, in many ways, rivals other forms that come with considerably more social prestige—not least among them: literature, understood in a more traditional sense, and journalism. We will work based on the assumption that these three textual systems are, in many ways, more similar to one another than we usually assume, and that, accordingly, a lot of energy is expanded in keeping them apart. Taking this perspective will allow us to think more about the similarities between these textual systems, and it will allow us to think more about how, for example, literature has used advertising as a foil to understand and articulate its own workings.

Our seminar will engage this topic by
- historicizing advertising as a cultural practice that is inextricably bound to the development of literature and journalism as crucial textual-cultural systems of modernity,
- looking at advertising as a (literary) trope that can speak about the nexus of capitalism, commercialization, creativity, art, writing, the social impact of texts, and related topics,
- looking at how more ‘legitimate’ textual systems have worked to distance themselves from advertising, effectively ‘othering’ it, even though (or precisely because) their own success was so tightly bound to the rise of advertising,
- looking at examples that blur the line between advertising and literature (or: advertising and journalism).

We will begin by setting up a shared conceptual framework based on a cluster of canonical readings, but a significant part of our conversation will be driven by student input and student exploration. This will entail considerable and sustained independent research, as well as ongoing written contributions by all members of the seminar. Among other things, you will ‘adopt’ a particular, evolving interest early on and keep thinking, writing, and talking about how this aspect relates to (and continues to develop in line with) the ongoing seminar discussion.

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