On Lecturing in Cultural Studies
'Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the Mome raths outgrabe.
For many of our students, lectures in Cultural Studies (and in other subject areas too) make about as much sense as Lewis Carroll's famous piece of nonsense. 1 Alice's comment that 'it's all in some language I don't know' would undoubtedly resonate with the experience of many new Cultural Studies students -- indeed, I remember well feeling this on my first acquaintance with some of the 'key texts' in Cultural Studies. The elliptical style of Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks ( 1971) required several readings, as did Foucault (see, for example, 1977 and 1978). Even now, I must confess to finding Judith Butler's work ( 1990 and 1993) extraordinarily difficult. It sometimes seems as if authors working within the field of Cultural Studies have taken a leaf out of Humpty Dumpty's book:
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.'
'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'
'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master [sic] -- that's all.' ( Carroll 1962: 130)
Of course, despite all the difficulties I experienced in my early reading of these texts, my narrative is one of successfully gaining control of the