Representation 1: Representing Us and Them

Nimen Hao.

Dear students, this semester we will work on two areas of spoken word English.

1. How are things represented (in English language and culture)?

  • How can we think and talk about representation (what language tools can we draw on)?
  • Why does it matter how things are represented?

This part of the course introduces students to some basic English language cultural studies language concepts, drawing on post-structuralist theory, including semiotics, discourse and ideology.

These theories and concepts will help us talk about how different kinds of things are represented, and how those representations help to constitute a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’, and are thus linked to aspects of identity, belonging and community.

We will then consider different kinds of representations including women and men, migrants and locals, rural and urban, and poor people and wealthy people. To consider these and other forms of representation we will discuss a variety of English language texts.

2. Spoken word grammar

Last semester we worked on expressing  a point of view, and you were assessed on your spoken word debate presentations. Some of the presentations showed that for some students an important area for improvement in spoken word English is your grammar.

So, this semester students that want to focus on grammar will have the opportunity to do so. The purpose is to aid your spoken word communication. It isn’t necessary to become grammatically perfect (most native English speakers aren’t). The purpose is i. to eliminate the mistakes that distract listeners from understanding your communication and ii. thereby help you achieve a level of fluency necessary to present well for English language work and academic testing.

Your work during the semester

1 +/OR 2

This semester you will either focus on 1 or on 1+2. I will guide you according to your learning needs. The classes each week will allow focus purely on representation.  However, some students may also do the grammar-focused homework, and I will provide feedback on your work via wechat. I will tell you about this in class. Please note, this part of the course is voluntary not compulsory.

At the end of semester all of you will provide me with a podcast. The podcast will consist of a recorded discussion of an issue of representation. This is a teamwork exercise and each team member will need to make an equal contribution. I will say more about this later in the class when we discuss assessment.

The class schedule below is subject to amendment throughout the semester.

Class One  Introduction, course outline, course work and assessment, readings for next week; accessing resources.
Class Two Theoretical tools 1: Representation representation; mimetic; intentional; constructionist.
Class Three Theoretical tools 2: Semiotics: signifier + signified = sign.
Class Four Theoretical tools 3: Denotations/Connotations
Class Five Theoretical tools 4: Encoding/Decoding
Class Six Representation in American movies; race, class, Green Book
Class Seven Talking about gender in popular culture: American superheroes.
Class Eight Talking about self-representation and gender in popular culture: Selfies, avatars; Chinese feminism, LGBT.
Labour Day No classes this week
Class Ten Nine: Talking about “Us” and “Them” Chinese heroes and their others
Class Eleven


Talking about MAGA (Make America Great Again)
Class Twelve


Presentation guidance: developing your representation topic and discussion
Class Thirteen



Talking about Mangliu and Ant People

Team consultations for feedback on your representation podcast.

Working week


work on your podcasts (voluntary attendance for more feedback on your assignments/otherwise just continue working on your assignments)

Recorded talks feedback (grammar)

End of semester


Submit your podcasts on or before Sunday June 16

Course Assessment

Part One: attendance and participation (20% of total possible marks for the year; 5% attendance; 15% participation)

Criteria for participation involves

+ good citizenship; respectful engagement, supporting each other’s learning, listening.

+ taking part

+ self-development, challenging your self

Part two: Conversation: Podcast on a representation issue (80% of total possible marks for the semester).

  • Team podcast with at least 3 minutes talk per team member
  • To be submitted at end of semester (by or before June 16)

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