21G.221 | Spring 2019 | Undergraduate

Communicating in American Culture(s)

Topics to Guide Reading and Discussion

Language as a Reflection of Core American Values

Study the materials and be prepared to contribute in an informed discussion of the following topics and questions:

  1. The short story “Friday Black” centers on several negative features of American culture. What are they?
    • What, if any, positive features of American culture does the author, Adjei-Brenyah, touch on?
    • How likely is it that Duo is the heir apparent to the narrator?
    • What is the difference between Black Friday and Friday Black?
    • How does the physical plan of the store reflect the mood of the story?
  2. The English language may have a huge vocabulary, but it is missing a neutral pronoun. In the era of LBGQ+ rights, pronoun reference is a political and cultural topic. What does Brooks have to say about pronoun use in 21st-century America?
    • What other English words or phrases can you think of that have featured in cultural and political discussion in the last fifty years, e.g., “women” vs. “girls”?
  3. As you read Marshall’s “Why the Star-Spangled Banner is the Perfect Insight into America’s Soul,” list the different attitudes toward the national anthem that Marshall presents. 
    • Why does he use the term “soul”?
    • On YouTube, listen to the four versions of the national anthem that Marshall mentions: Marvin Gaye; Jimi Hendrix; Jose Feliciano; John Amirante. How do they differ?
    • Why do you think different populations in the USA have had such strong reactions to the way different musicians interpret the anthem?
    • How does the view of the national anthem of your country of origin compare to that of the US? Do you stand, put your right hand on your heart, and take all hats off, as Americans do?

Written Response #6: Patriot’s Day holiday is next week. What is the role in the globally integrated 21st century for patriotism, national anthems, and flags? In your response, consider the way these buzzwords and symbols have been used throughout US history and in the history of your other culture(s).

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2019