Article List by Author

Groupthink in the Cave: A New Perspective on The Matrix

Kelly Salsbery
Stephen F. Austin State University
Nacogdoches TX USA

Anne Collins Smith
Stephen F. Austin State University
Nacogdoches TX USA


While analyses of the movie The Matrix abound, the authors propose a new perspective, particularly useful in the current polarized political milieu in the US. The Matrixprovides an excellent example of the phenomenon known as “groupthink,” and a pedagogically helpful way to address it. It is especially significant that the hero of the movie, with whom students identify, has to struggle to overcome groupthink within himself.

Keywords: The Matrix, The Wachowskis, groupthink, Plato, Manuel Velasquez, Irving Janis

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Engaging Interdisciplinary Conversations

Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN, USA

Timothy D. Saeed
Northern Vermont University
Lyndon, VT, USA

Petermann, Emily. The Musical Novel: Imitation of Musical Structure, Performance, and Reception in Contemporary Fiction. Camden House, 2014. $85.   

The Musical Novel: Imitation of Musical Structure, Performance, and Reception in Contemporary Fiction was first published in 2014 by Camden House. This year the book appears in its paperback edition, with Boydell & Brewer. As its author Emily Petermann notes elsewhere, the new edition contains no drastic changes: a paperback version of the book seems to be an opportunity to remind the audience of the acuteness of interdisciplinary links that literature may inspire and strengthen. However, it responds to the changes of the environment shaped by interdisciplinary dialogues. Conflating at least two fields—literature and music—The Musical Novelpotentially contributes to the ongoing conversation regarding teaching across disciplines. Continue Reading →

The Persistent Need to Look behind the Curtain

Frank Baum created the Wizard of Oz, and the grandiose man who lived behind a curtain. Perceived as holding immense power, the façade proved different than the reality. But what exactly is the reality? Daily, what are we as viewers, as students, as teachers, learning from popular culture sources around us? Trying to reach for a reality can be problematic in of itself, yet denying their existence is also a trap. The four articles in this issue bring together varied popular media outlets to uncover violence, gender, and powerful pedagogy in and out of the classroom.  

First, Becca Cragin explains in her article, “Grounded Aesthetics: Pedagogy for a Post-Truth Era,” how students are often challenged in untangling the variety and substance of information streaming into their lives. Many students feel overwhelmed with the information, the discussion of fake news, and tend to believe there is no way to determine veracity. To address these concerns, Cragin provides pertinent sources and applications of literary and critical media literacy which have led her students to see beyond the concept of  life in a “post-truth era.” 

Thus, what we see is the impact of popular TV shows, whether in desensitizing people to violence, to presenting varied cultural values, or to suggesting appropriate gendered presentations and behaviors. Just as Cragin evidences steps to expand student thought, Elizabeth Gartley provides insight into guiding middle and high school students to see different perspectives through considering The Walking Dead and the proposing the question “who would be on your zombie apocalypse team?” To ground this discussion, the article, “We All Have Jobs Here: Multiple Intelligences in The Walking Dead,”creates a connection between the characters on the show and Howard Garner’s multiple intelligences. What becomes evident in this article is the practicality of drawing popular culture into pedagogical practice to support learning. Through Gartley’s article, as readers, we are shown glimpses of the ways violence and gender intersect in media representations. 

These media representations present a key outlet for informal learning—learning that can take place in ones living room instead of in a traditional classroom. The ways then we understand what we watch can be viewed in many ways, such as seen in, Allen Culpepper’s, “A Gendered Perspective on Policing Violence in Happy Valley and Fargo. Culpepper unpacks the crimes and argues for a deep parallel between the on-screen portrayal of women in the TV series, Happy Valley and the film, Fargo. He also suggests a reflection to contemporary thought and political views, hinting at important gendered perspectives affecting (in)formal learning.

Lastly, Adam Nicks moves us to considering the media consumption of live action events, in particular that of professional wrestling in “The Many Faces of Foley: A Journey of Discovery and Influence on Professional Wrestling.” He examines the ways in which Mick Foley, a key professional wrestler from the 1990s, developed intricate personas which merged a real and “fake” world. Drawing from Foley’s autobiography, Nicks emphasizes the uniqueness of the wrestler’s “blurring of the lines between reality and fiction” while addressing concepts of gender and violence that affected audiences and professional wrestling in general.

These articles as a whole highlight the need to continue to explore and examine what is opinion and what is truth. Collectively, these articles address the persistent need to look behind the curtain and understand further. In some contexts, this plays out in representations and behaviors and others as fiction and reality. The authors here have pressed us to think differently about the influence and potential of media texts and portrayals, from TV, film, to literature and dramatic endeavors.

Finally, the vision and work to develop an issue depends upon the work of a strong team. In particular for this issue, I would like to thank Kelli Bippert (Educational Resources Editor) who provided extra assistance in finalizing this issue, Rob Galin (Copy Editor), Kurt Depner (Managing Editor), Douglas CohenMiller (Creative Director), and our peer reviewers. Moving forward, we are excited to see your contributions, encouraging you to submit for both journal articles and also critical perspectives and practices relating to pedagogy and/or popular culture. We hope you enjoy this issue and are encouraged to consider how popular culture presents both opportunities for formal pedagogy while also demonstrating inevitable dynamic effects for informal learning.

Anna CohenMiller

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A Gendered Perspective on Policing Violence in Happy Valley and Fargo

T. Allen Culpepper
Tulsa Community College
Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA


Portrayal of a police officer determined to fight crime and execute justice in a harsh, isolated environment has become a television and film subgenre, often featuring women facing gender-related challenges. The issues raised in Sally Wainwright’s British television series Happy Valley, can be made more accessible, particularly to American undergraduate students, via its commonalities with the Coen brothers film Fargo. In both, a tough but compassionate policewoman pursues the more sociopathic of a pair of criminals involved in a botched kidnapping attempt instigated by an inept businessman, taking on the case for personal and professional honor, and as a responsibility to family and community. Catherine in Happy Valley and Marge in Fargo juggle “masculine” and “feminine” roles as they care for family members while policing violence.  The women generally succeed in balancing their gender roles, whereas the men around them do not. But they sometimes assume the aggression associated with the male criminals they pursue. Happy Valley takes these issues deeper by giving Catherine a more intimate connection with one of the perpetrators and presenting the story more directly through a woman’s extra-patriarchal perspective, thus revealing the performative nature of gender roles and the limits of a patriarchal binary view of them. Looking at these issues in relation to Fargo paves the way for examination of their more complex and extensive treatment in Happy Valley.  

Keywords: television, women, gender, police officers, crime, northern England, film, violence, Happy Valley, detective, Fargo

Author Bio 

T. Allen Culpepper is an associate professor of English at Tulsa Community College in Oklahoma, where he teaches literature, composition, and creative writing.  He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Tulsa, with a primary specialization in 20th-century British literature. He has a longstanding interest in the interplay between literature and popular culture. He is also a poet, and he currently serves as faculty managing editor of the online literary and arts magazine Tulsa Review, and as a reader for Whale Road Review and Nimrod.

Reference Citation

Culpepper, T. A. (2018). A gendered perspective on policing violence in Happy Valley and Fargo. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 5(3).

Culpepper, T. Allen. A Gendered Perspective on Policing Violence in Happy Valley and Fargo. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 2018, vol 5, no. 3.

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