Pop culture lecture series an open forum for community

Samantha Wright

Faculty and students will come to discuss the inner workings of the fashion advertising industry later this week.

Two lectures will be presented: “The Semiotics of Lingerie Advertising or Why Does that Model Look like a Zombie?” by Helen Sterk, communication department head, and “The Language of Fashion, Communication, Concept and the Runway Performance” by English student Jarred Johnson.

Anthony Harkins, director of the pop culture studies major, started the series in conjunction with the pop culture program during his first semester as director in fall of 2010. The series has continued each semester since then. 

“The goal, then and now, was to give students and the broader community a chance to learn about the wide variety of popular culture-related research being conducted by faculty, scholars, and students on campus,” he said.

Harkins chooses speakers based on what he hears students and faculty are working on, and the speakers choose their own topics and presentations.

Johnson, a junior from Somerset, put together his lecture because he enjoys literature and fashion, and was interested in how they intersected. He thinks pop culture is a worthwhile thing to study and learn about.

“My mom thinks I’m vain for watching ‘Keeping Up with Kardashians,’” he said in an email. “This lecture is one example of how pop culture contains significance and how much it says about our culture. And not just that we’re fame obsessed and material! We live in an exciting age when celebrities are manufactured and people get famous for making videos on their phones. This isn’t sad; it’s fascinating!”

Sterk created her lecture because she has always been fascinated by what is considered “beautiful” and “handsome,” how idealized images shape people and the cultural constructions of gender and sexuality. She believes these talks will help people critically analyze pop culture and the images it promotes.

“As educated people, we need to know what values are being promoted and how popular culture stories work,” she said. “That way, we can think critically about their meanings and figure out how to promote better values, if we believe the ones they promote are not healthy for people or culture.”

The lectures will take place Wednesday, today from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Faculty House. Refreshments will be provided at this swipeable event.