Links to syllabi (PDFs) for classes I have recently taught:
Media Criticism and the Politics of Aesthetics (400-level)
Course Description: Every time we tell someone that they should go see this movie or not bother watching that show, we are using implicit theories of media criticism. In this class, we will seek to make those theories explicit and then interrogate them: What do we think media texts should do? What should textual criticism do? Where do our notions of "quality" come from? What are the politics of aesthetic judgments? How do cultural taste and social power interrelate? What is the cultural role of media criticism, and what can we learn from a text's critical reception?
Deconstructing Disney: A Media Studies case study (200-level)
Course Description: This course will serve as an advanced introduction to media studies, including units on political economy, ideology, industry studies, audience reception theory, and more. Our case study will be the multifaceted media empire that is the Disney corporation, a storied company that has grown up with the modern media—and that generations of Americans have grown up with as well. Disney represents some of the best-loved media products of all time, but also some of the most problematic, and also engages in a wide range of positive and not-so-positive business and political practices, making it an ideal exemplar of the power and potential of the media in society.
As a liberal arts course, this class has been designed to help you move (in Barry Kroll’s words) from ignorant certainty to intelligent confusion. In other words, you have ideas and feelings about the media generally and Disney specifically, possibly passionately-held ideas and feelings in many cases. My goal in this course is to complicate those ideas and leave you appreciating the complex processes through which stories and ideologies get produced and consumed, as well as the political, economic, and social implications of those stories.
This course will not be “hating on” Disney, nor will we speak often of the “genius” of Disney, although Walt Disney himself and thousands of people who have worked for the Disney corporation over the years can legitimately claim that distinction. It’s best not to think of this as a class about Disney at all; it’s a class about how we can understand the stories that we as a society tell ourselves. Disney merely provides an especially important example of those stories, their origins, and their consequences.
I retaught the course at the 400 level; the syllabus for that is here:
Advanced Media Theory
Digital Technology and Cultural Change (300-level)
Course Description: The world of communication continues to change rapidly, and with it, the cultural landscape. New avenues of social connection, political action, and creative production clash with powerful financial, legal, and political forces, and the outcomes of these clashes are far from certain. This class explores the possibilities for cultural change that digital technology presents and the social/economic struggles over the future of our culture. The goal of this course is to help you acquire new vocabularies and skills of cultural analysis and participation that will allow you to better understand, explain, and intervene in the social, cultural, and political possibilities of digital technology. By the end of this class, you should be able to produce clear and sophisticated cultural analyses of new technological developments and their potential social and political impacts, and feel confident participating in read/write cultures at both low- and high-impact levels.
Media and Cultural Policy (300-level)
Course Description: The term "media policy" might suggest the narrow legal or bureaucratic framework within which media are regulated. Looked at more broadly, however, media policy is really about a series of struggles over technology, economics, political power, cultural meaning, and social values. These struggles are waged among a range of institutional and individual actors with different interests and varying degrees of cultural influence. Looked at even more broadly, media policy is part of our cultural policy--how we as a society organize and structure our cultural selves. And that, in turn, forces us to ask: What kind of society do we want to have? What values and principles will we prioritize? What modes of meaning-making will we support, discourage, finance, repress, reward, or censure? In other words, what should our culture do and how can we best get it do that? This course will examine a range of policy questions and issues--historical, contemporary, and future--with an emphasis on their legal, technological, economic, political, cultural, and social dimensions (not necessarily in that order of importance!). In each case, we will seek to understand media policy in terms of how we got the cultural system we have today and how we might think about the cultural system (and society) we want tomorrow.
U.S. Broadcast History and Theory (200-level)
Course Description: Radio and television are major aspects of contemporary culture, politics, and everyday life, yet we rarely pause to think about them critically. This course provides you with that opportunity. Organized chronologically, the course offers a broad overview of significant broadcast programs, the institutions that created them, and the social conditions within which they were produced and viewed. Students with an interest in U.S. history and politics should find the class especially productive. In addition to this history, there is a theoretical dimension to the course, an approach that helps us understand the complicated economic and cultural role of radio and television within U.S. society. This approach integrates the analysis of media texts, their social contexts, their industrial contexts, and audience readings of these texts. Lectures, discussions, screenings, and readings will explain this approach, which students will then apply in a ten-page research paper. Finally, there is also a production component: working in groups, you will produce a 10-minute radio drama.
Mediating Gender and Sexuality (200-level)
Course Description: In this course we will examine and evaluate the construction and representation of gender and sexuality in contemporary American society. The class will draw on the interests and expertise of two professors who will co-teach the two sections of the class. Together, we will focus on a variety of cultural sites at which identity is constructed, including but not limited to television, magazines, advertising, music, memorials, the internet, and public spaces. Although gender is the primary identity construction examined in this course, we will also pay close attention to other aspects of identity such as ethnicity, class, and sexuality. We will investigate representational issues in relation to their political repercussions, and draw from a broad range of academic and popular literature.
Media Literacy (100-level)
Course Description: While most of us are proficient consumers of visual electronic media – we have the speed of symbol-recognition and comprehension skills to be adept "readers" – few of us have been taught to bring to that reading the critical skills we learn in the study of literature, music or art. This course examines how sound and images construct the "realities" that media presumably represent. The goal of this course is to help you acquire new vocabularies and skills of media analysis that will allow you to become a more critical and sophisticated consumer and producer of media. By the end of this class, you should be able to: 1). Analyze the elements through which media texts are constructed in order to unpack the social, political, and/or ideological content of those texts; 2). Situate your analyses within larger cultural contexts in order to explain how and why that content might matter (politically, culturally, etc.); and 3). Produce your own media texts with an awareness of the social, political, and/or ideological content of your work, as well as how it might be interpreted by others.