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Cosmopolitan magazine sells sex to its audience
192:310 Communication and Popular Culture Fall 2012
Paper Assignment #1–Magazines
For your first paper, choose a magazine which you read regularly or one which you wish to discover more about. Choose a current issue for your sample. Analyze (or deconstruct), discuss, and evaluate the cultural values or “stories” you find in the magazine following the format set out below. Bring to your analysis (or deconstruction) any of the theoretical insights or critical approaches from the class and the textbooks which seem appropriate. Discuss how the magazine as text communicates those values and evaluate both the general cultural significance of the magazine and the quality of the values.
In analyzing your magazine, cover the following ground:
1. Check the current Writer’s Market description of your magazine and check the magazine’s website if it has one. These steps may or may not be helpful in completing some of the other steps but can be a useful first step.
2. Describe the format–for example, size, lay out, paper, regular features and departments, in general anything descriptive of the way in which the magazine is put together.
3. Describe the magazine’s audience as best you can determine both in demographic terms and in terms of interests and attitudes.
4. Describe the subject(s) covered by the magazine and summarize the content.
5. Describe the advertising both in terms of what is being advertised and how it is being advertised—as well perhaps, what is not being advertised.
6. Taking all of the above into account, analyze the cultural values, the cultural stories, and ideologies, suggested by the magazine.
7. Draw a general conclusion in which you discuss and evaluate (that is, argue a critical claim about) the worth and the significance of your magazine and the values you discovered for popular culture.
Start your papers with a brief introduction telling what your magazine is, what it is like in a brief and general way, and what your thesis (that is, your claim, your conclusion) is about the values and significance.
The paper should be around 5 pages (minimum 4 pages, maximum 6 pages). Emphasize items 6 and 7. Discussion of other items should recognize 6 and 7 as the ultimate goals.
Make specific reference to details of your sample magazine to explain and support your analysis and your conclusions.
The paper should be neatly typed using double spacing and standard margins; before you hand it in, it should be carefully proofread and corrected. Please only print on one side of the page.
Papers are due at the start of class on Wednesday, October 17. Any paper that is not turned in by class on October 17 will be treated as late. This assignment is worth 20% of your grade.
A good paper for this assignment will accomplish three things. First, most basically, it will describe the magazine clearly and in detail. Someone reading the paper ought to know what your magazine is like. Secondly, and more importantly, it will use central items from the description to analyze for cultural meanings and values. Third, it will then evaluate the values suggesting whether and in what ways those values are positive or negative or healthy or unhealthy.
For example, saying that a magazine features pictures of beautiful, sexually attractive women is description. Arguing that the frequency and nature of those pictures suggests that the magazine constructs “beauty” and physical attractiveness as an important, even primary value for women is analysis. Arguing further that female “beauty” is constructed in this text as “young,”, “slim,” “tall,” “white” (or at least Eurocentric), and “blonde,” is further and more detailed and useful analysis. Arguing that these values are negative and unhealthy because they are overidealized and impossible to attain and are, therefore, damaging to readers; or because they marginalize and disempower those who do not meet those standards; or because the values themselves are superficial and unimportant relative to other, more important standards are forms of evaluation.
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