Special Topics in Film – Outside the Box: Television and American Culture
140-004 | CCN: 32298
M/W 9:30-11:00am; M 1:00-4:00pm, Dwinelle 188
What is television? What does it do? The earliest television viewers – audiences of broadcast networks’ first programs in the late 1930s and early 1950s – would not recognize the television programming or distribution formats of the early 21st century. Nor, in all likelihood, would they be inclined to embrace content which, from the gritty serial drama to the provocative “reality tv” program, we now call commonplace. This course will introduce students to the history of television and its place in American culture, from the earliest days of broadcasting to the current post-, multi-, and trans-media landscape. Beginning with the introduction of television to the public and private spheres of the earlly 20th century, we will read scholarship that investigates how television dramatized shifts in social values and mediated national and international conflicts. At the same time, we will watch television series that do the important, difficult, and occasionally contradictory cultural work of screening the products of the American unconscious. This course works chronologically, moving decade by decade toward the contemporary moment, where we will explore case studies in media convergence, reality television and the news, narrative and authorship, and the performance of masculinity.