Experimental College: Children of the Grave
Heavy Metal’s Relevance in an Era of Globalization
Classroom: HSS 259
Time: Wednesdays, 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
Facilitator: Henry York
INTRODUCTION and OBJECTIVES
Simultaneously frightening, earnest, self-deprecating, hyper-critical, and welcoming, the culture of heavy metal is a worldwide phenomenon that has inspired a burgeoning field of metal studies (I know, I couldn’t believe it myself. Often as intriguing as the music itself, is the ever-lively culture of metal. Students will gain critical knowledge of heavy metal music and culture, and how these interact with issues of race, gender, power, and globalization. Questions raised and discussed will include:
What musical conventions distinguish heavy metal? In what other musical traditions are these rooted? Does heavy metal enhance or otherwise alter the understandings of these traditions?
Given metal's associations with hate, violence, and supremacy, is there space for a critical defense of the genre?
With regard to developments in extreme metal, what is the place of transgression in cultural expression?
How do prevailing trends of globalization affect metal scenes worldwide? How is metal in conversation with this process?
(How) Have issues of race and gender in metal changed throughout the history of the genre?
Students will arrive at a deeper understanding of the global metal scene, and explore how this knowledge implicates issues and ideas far beyond its own brutal borders. Through an exploration of heavy metal, then, students will also arrive at a more critical perspective on modernity in general.
This class will be focused on texts which constitute the burgeoning field of Metal Studies, with a focus on issues of globalization as they intersect with the music and culture of heavy metal. I expect everyone to come to class having read the material, so that we can enter into a meaningful dialogue with the texts. Texts will be made available to class members online. The texts will provide a frame of reference for the musical and cultural elements of metal to which class members will gain access, through in-class listening exercises, documentary films, and (optionally) live shows. This is a music and a culture that I greatly enjoy, and above all I’d like to share that enthusiasm with you, so that this is not a mere exercise in dry academia, but rather a lively and interactive experience!
Please attend all classes having read the assigned materials for that week.
Students will complete a total of 15 pages of writing in the course of the semester. Students will be asked to write 1-2 pages in response to readings within the class. These assignments will consist of basic analysis of texts and/or in-class discussions for relevant information. These assignments will be given the week before they’re due.
Two in-depth writing assignments (3-5) will also be completed, as effective midterm and final. These assignments will require research outside of class materials. Details for these assignments will be covered several weeks before they are due.
Grades will be assigned by the student’s faculty advisor in conjunction with the course facilitators. Failing grades will be administered for students who registered for the course but stopped attending/participating and/or did not complete the assignments.
Students looking to take the course for credit will need to fill out an independent study form. We will provide these forms on the first day of class. Independent study requires a faculty advisor and a GPA of 3.0 or greater. The student is responsible for submitting all paperwork. Adding classes via permit number occurs August 27 – September 10 (ends at midnight, September 10)
(full class bibliography available on class website)
I. (September 10-16) “Into the Void” – First Impressions of the Thing Called Metal
In-class exercise: Generational side-by-side song comparisons
II. (September 17-23) Metal as a Global Genre
Reading: Excerpt from Robert Walser, Running with the Devil (41-50);
Weinstein, “ The Globalization of Metal”
III. (September 24-September 30) Societal Roots of Metal
Reading: Excerpt from Wallach, Berger, and Greene, Metal Rules the Globe (Introduction, 15-19);
Walser, “Eruptions: Heavy Metal Appropriations of Classical Virtuosity” (not required)
IV. (October 1-October 7) Transgressions
Reading: Hjelm, Kahn-Harris, Levine, “Heavy Metal as Controversy and Counterculture”;
Kahn-Harris, “Racism, Globalization, and Play within the Global Extreme Metal Scene”
V. (October 8-October 14) Gender and Metal
Reading: Ravishing Grimness, "Girlfriend Metal" (blog post);
Hill, “Is Emo Metal? Gendered Boundaries and New Horizons in the Metal Community”
VI. October 15-October 21) Gender and Metal, Pt. 2
Reading: Riches, “Embracing the Chaos: Mosh Pits, Extreme Metal Music and Liminality”
VI. (October 22-October 28) Race and Metal
Reading: Excerpt from Murray, Crosstown Traffic (129-152)
VII. (October 29-November 4) Race and Metal, Pt. 2
Reading: Fellezs, “Black Metal Soul Music”
VIII. (November 5-November 11) Metal and Politics
Reading: Kahn-Harris, “The ‘Failure’ of Youth Culture”;
Scott, “Heavy Metal and the Deafening Threat of the Apolitical”
IX. (November 12-November 18) Metal Movie Massacre: Heavy Metal in Baghdad
X. (November 19-November 25) Run to the Hills!
XI. (November 26-December 2) TBD
XII. (December 3-December 9) TBD
XIII. (December 10-December 16) Last session; final papers due; AntiChristmas party