AMCULT 498 - Capstone Seminar in American Culture
Section: 002 Fakes, Phonies, and Copies: Originality in a Digital Age
Term: WN 2018
Subject: American Culture (AMCULT)
Department: LSA American Culture
Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of department.
May be elected twice for credit. May be elected more than once in the same term.
Primary Instructor:

In a cultural moment marked by "fake news," viral memes, and pirated content, it is said that there are no longer copies of originals but only copies of copies. In this course, we’ll explore copying as an artistic practice and political concept with rich and often surprising histories and subliminal meanings. We’ll be particularly attentive to what these can tell us about the relationship between representation and power.

Tactical copying — pastiche, collage, sampling, remixing — has a longstanding presence in Western popular and avant-garde culture, from the Dadaists’ use of found materials to William S. Burroughs’ literary cut-ups to John Cage’s found sounds to Grandmaster Flash’s remixes. And yet, even as we may celebrate its creative possibilities, copying remains inextricable from the moral and legal politics of ownership, authenticity, and originality that constitute the ethical-juridical bedrock of our social order.

We will ask not only what copying and appropriation are but also how they have been taken up in experimental art and media practice. The course will consider:

How have digital technologies (e.g. copy + paste) shaped our relationship to notions of authenticity, ownership, and originality? Are cultural anxieties about imitation dating back to the ancients made obsolete by our digital age or more present than ever?

What political and cultural operations are at work in the act of copying? Who is allowed to copy? Who gets away with it and who doesn’t?

How have artists and writers taken up copying and appropriation as a creative and critical strategy (e.g. hip-hop sampling, feminist collage, culture jamming, copyleft)? Can the act of appropriation be considered a radical act or does it only ever function to reproduce what came before it?

AMCULT 498 - Capstone Seminar in American Culture
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
MW 10:00AM - 11:30AM
002 (SEM)
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.
Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for AMCULT 498 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi
The CourseProfile (ART) system, supported by the U-M Provost’s 3rd Century Initiative through a grant to the Office of Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (ART)