Keyword Cultures: From Raymond Williams to the Digital Age

Monday through Thursday 12:30 – 1:55 PM
Course Number
Number of Units
Instructor Name
Leila Stegemoeller
Scholarship/s Available

There is a popular joke among digital marketers – that the best place to hide a dead
body is on page two of Google. One of the many techniques Search Engine Optimization
(SEO) experts employ to save their own pages from obscurity is keyword strategy: determining what search terms or phrases to associate with their brand, and adjusting pages or purchasing Google ads accordingly. On platforms like Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, keyword search and hashtags function similarly for advertisers, companies, and individuals. Whenever we google something, organize files, or search through a book’s index, we are using keywords. In disciplines like literary study, when we follow the repetition of a term through a work to unlock a hidden meaning, we are treating it as a keyword. And following cultural critic and literature professor Raymond Williams, when we refer to “democracy,” or “the media” at all, we are employing a socially complex keyword. This course teaches students to think of the keyword in several ways: first, as a cornerstone of traditional literary or rhetorical analysis; second, as a central concept in digital humanities methods for analyzing texts; and finally, as a cultural unit that shapes our thinking in search engines, on social media, and in our larger social world.