Common Culture

Michael F. Petracca / Madeleine Sorapure  
Total pages
July 2011
Related Titles


This popular culture reader helps students develop critical and analytical skills and write clear prose while immersing themselves in subjects they find interesting: advertising, television, popular music, technology, sports, and movies.



Broad Treatment of Themes and Focused Topical Clusters - provides a broad grounding in the chapter theme plus a sharp focus on sub-topics within each chapter.


Varied Readings-- demonstrate a range of rhetorical approaches, such as exposition, analysis, and argumentation, while offering a range of levels of sophistication and difficulty in terms of content and style.


Reading and Writing about Popular Culture-Chapter One explains how to analyze readings about popular culture and takes students through the process of writing academic essays in response to texts and images.  Includes sample student paper and explanation of research and MLA citation.


Varied Writing Prompts-focus on surface meaning, critical thinking and rhetorical concerns for each reading, followed by an in-depth writing assignment.  Chapters end with broader writing prompts, internet activities and visual analysis items.

New to this Edition

Nineteen new readings out of 45 are new to this edition--over 40 persent. 


Three new topical clusters: The Future of Advertising; Our Computers, Ourselves; and Football: A Gridiron Case Study


Many new images in black & white and color are presented for consideration.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Reading and Writing About American Popular Culture

    What Is Popular Culture?

    Why Study Popular Culture?

    Active Reading

        “Barbie's Shoes,” Hilary Tham

        “Seen Through Rose-Tinted Glasses”: The Barbie Doll in American Society, Marilyn Ferris Motz   

    Reading Images

    The Writing Process

    Sample Student Essay

        “Role-Model Barbie: Now and Forever,” Carolyn Muhlstein


Chapter 2: Advertising

    Approaches to Advertising

        “The Cult You're In,” Kalle Lasn 

        “Advertising's Fifteen Basic Appeals,” Jib Fowles

         “How Advertising Informs to Our Benefit,” John E. Calfee

        *“Jesus is a brand of jeans,” Jean Kilbourne

    *The Future of Advertising

        *“Interview with Mark Crispin Miller”

        *“The Post Advertising Age,” Bob Garfield

        *“The Brain: Marketing To Your Mind,” Alice Park


Chapter 3: Television

    The Culture Influences of Television

        *“Society's Storyteller: How TV Creates the Myths by which we Live,” George Gerbner

         “Television Addiction Is No Mere Metaphor,” Robert Kubey and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

         “Watching TV Makes You Smarter,” Steven Johnson

         “Gin, Television, and Social Surplus,” Clay Shirkey


        “Losing Our Religion,” Russell Peterson

         “Amusing Ourselves to Death with Television News: Jon Stewart, Neil Postman, and the Huxleyan Warning,” Gerald J. Erion

         “'Fake' News versus 'Real' News as Sources of Political Information: The Daily Show and Postmodern Political Reality,” Jeffrey P. Jones


Chapter 4: Music 

        “Is Hip-Hop Dead? 5 Things That Killed Hip-Hop, ”J-Zone

        *“Word: Jay-Z's Decoded and the language of hip-hop,” Kelefa Sanneh

        *”The Year Hip-Hop Invented Sex,” Megan Carpentier

         “The Miseducation of Hip-Hop,” Evelyn Jamilah

    Music and Contemporary Culture

         "The Money Note: Can the Record Business Be Saved?" John Seabrook

         *“How to Save the Music Business,” Paul McGuiness

         "Sex and Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll: Urban Legends and Popular Music, Ian Inglis


 Chapter 5: Technology

        *“Engine of Liberation,” John Steele Gordon

         “The Judgment of Thamus,” Neil Postman

    *Our Computers, Ourselves 

        “Beyond Borders,” Robert Samuels

         *“The Data-Driven Life,” Gary Wolf

         *“Is Google Making Us Stupid,” Nicholas Carr

         *“Meet your iBrain,” Gary Small & Gigi Vorgan


 Chapter 6: Sports

    Sport and Society

         *”The Roar of the Crowd,” David P. Barash

         “Life on the Edge,” William Dowell and the Editors of Time Magazine.

         “Fixing Kids' Sports,” Peter Cary, Randy Dotinga, and Avery Comarow.

         *“Confessions of an Agent,” Josh Luchs, Josh, George Dohrmann, and David Epstein

         “Champion of the World,” Maya Angelou

    *Football: a gridiron case study

         *“The Boy Who Died of Football,” Thomas Lake

         *“Does Football Have a Future?” Ben McGrath

         "The Unbeautiful Game," Adam Gopnik


Chapter 7: Movies 

    Film and American Culture

         “The Way We Are,” Sydney Pollack

         “Fight Club: A Ritual Cure for the Spiritual Ailment of American Masculinity,” Jethro Rothe-Kushel

         *“From Chick Flicks to Millennial Blockbusters: Spinning Female-Driven Narratives into Franchises,” Ashley Elaine York

         “Raising the Dead,” Kyle Bishop

    Two Contemporary Filmmakers

         “A Fine Romance,” David Denby   

         “Freaks, Geeks, and Mensches,” Alex Wainer

         *“Mama's Gun,” Hilton Als

         *“How Do You Solve a Problem Like Madea?” Benjamin: Svetkey, Margeaux Watson, and Alynda Wheat