[C]ulture [is] a pursuit of our total perfection by means of getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best that has been thought and said in the world. (Matthew Arnold, 1869)

Roll over Beethoven. (Chuck Berry, 1958)

Once upon a time there were the mass media, and they were wicked, of course, and there was a guilty party. Then there were the virtuous voices that accused the criminals. And Art (ah, what luck!) offered alternatives, for those who were not prisoners of the mass media. . . . Well, it's all over. We have to start from the beginning, asking one another what's going on. (Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, 1990)

What's this course about? The sociology of culture is as much an approach to sociology, a paradigm, as it is a particular subject matter within sociology, a "thing" to study. It's as much a way of thinking about social life, in other words, as it is a particular aspect of social life. This course will explore that way of thinking by exploring central themes and issues in the sociology of culture. It will focus on questions such as: What is the relation of the cultural forms studied by humanists to the social structures studied by sociologists and political scientists? What is the relation of experience, of subjectivity, to material life?