To: Betsy Birmingham From: Stephanie Schulz Date: 16 November, 2012 Subject: Capstone Project Proposal Proposal Music is an integral part of human culture. It is found in hundreds of forms all around the world. The music of a society is a good indicator of the state of the society; specifically, music lyrics can reveal a lot about the people who listen to them. Lyrics offer commentary on a cultureâ€™s politics, economy, traditions, religions, values, beliefs, and attitudes. As such, studying popular music gives a unique perspective of a culture. The project I propose is a literary analysis of the Mumford & Sons album Sigh No More. I will apply cultural criticism and attempt to answer the question of why readers (or listeners) at a particular time and place find the work compelling and relevant. To answer this question, I will use the literary lens of Marxist criticism. Particularly, I will examine how the lyrics reflect and critique socioeconomic conditions. I will work with Dr. Amy Rupiper Taggart to complete this project. The final product will be a 10-15 page essay that provides a detailed analysis of the Mumford & Sonâ€™s lyrics.
Objectives My primary reason for choosing this project is to give academic purpose to a personal passion. I received my first CD as a Christmas present 15 years ago and have continued to amass my collection and expand my musical horizons ever since. Over the years, I have learned how to understand different people based on the music they enjoy. This project gives me the opportunity to build on this concept and examine how song lyrics reflect a whole culture. I hope to turn my life-long hobby into a more concrete, academic practice that will help my passion for music and lyrics continue to grow. Another goal I have for this project is to produce a high quality writing sample that I can use in the future as an example of my work. I know that I would like to go into a career in writing, and I have also considered attending graduate school in the future. In either case, I want my final product to be an example of my abilities to research, apply detailed analysis, combine creative and academic concepts, and communicate effectively through writing.
Methods As previously indicated, this project will apply cultural criticism to the lyrics of Sigh No More through the use of Marxist theory and criticism. To accomplish this, I will start with examining original cultural and Marxist theory texts, as well as interpretations of each form of criticism. This will supply a foundation on which to build my analysis. After acquiring a basic knowledge, I will use existing cultural and Marxist analyses of literary works as guides. The preexisting analyses can work as models for my own analysis, allowing me to enter the conversation in the genres of cultural and Marxist criticism. From there, I will identify the common elements in cultural and Marxist analyses and look for them in the Mumford & Sons lyrics. From my preliminary research, I have already identified a few broad Marxist themes and elements to look for in the text. In the book Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide, Lois Tyson identifies several questions that can be used to conduct a Marxist critical analysis. I have selected two of these questions: 1. How does the literary work reflect (intentionally or not) the socioeconomic conditions of the time in which it was written and/or the time in which it was set, and what do those conditions reveal about the history of class struggle? 2. How might the work be seen as a critique of capitalism, imperialism, or classism? That is, in what ways does the text reveal, and invite is to condemn, oppressive socioeconomic forces (including repressive ideologies)? (Tyson 68) In order to answer these two questions, I will look for several elements in the text. The lyrics often reference the working class; it makes sense, then, to identify the specific contexts in which the working class is mentioned and the attitude the text seems to have toward the different classes (and the class system in general). Also, I will look for references to socioeconomic forces, such as references to religion, education, and community. Finally, I will try to identify the various ideologies that the text either supports or condemns. Specifically, the lyrics often seem to promote disillusionment of ideologies. Identifying exactly what those ideologies are will help to answer my main research questions.
Timeline Dr. Taggart and I have set up bi-weekly meetings on Wednesdays at 2:30pm with e-mail updates on the off weeks. Set deadlines breakdown thusly: ď‚ˇ ď‚ˇ
November 15: progress report due to Dr. Birmingham annotated bibliography due to Dr. Birmingham November 20: abstract due to Dr. Birmingham
November 21: rough draft analysis of two songs due to Dr. Taggart November 26: longer, more complete rough draft due to Dr. Taggart rough draft of power point for presentation November 29: presentation at 12:30pm in the Prairie Room December 10: final paper due to Dr. Taggart
Reading List Gentlemen of the Road. Dir. Fred&Nick. Island Records, 2011. DVD. --This documentary follows Mumford & Sons through their first year of tours. It gives context to my research, specifying a time and place for my cultural analysis. Mumford & Sons. Sigh No More. Glassnote, 2011. CD. --This is my primary text. Tyson, Lois. Critical Theory Today: A User-Friendly Guide. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print. --Tyson provides a detailed and easy to apply interpretation of cultural criticism and Marxism, along with helpful examples of each. Williams, Raymond. Marxism and Literature. New York: Oxford UP, 1978. Print. --Williams is a common name in Marxist critical theory. His works, and this book especially, provide a more in-depth knowledge of Marxist criticism and its application than Tyson. I also plan to use some less academic news articles surrounding the popularity of Mumford & Sons, but I haven’t decided which, if any, will be cited.