In the spring, I’ll be teaching 3 sections of CUA’s Media and History course. The stated goal of the course is to “explore mediation in and across time,” with the hope of introducing students to questions about the transitions and interactions among media and culture. In the past, the course hasn’t been taught as a comprehensive survey of media history (teaching several thousand years’ worth of media in fifteen weeks would be rather difficult). Instead the emphasis is on using past media transitions to make sense of contemporary transitions, which I think is a good idea. So far, I have the basic scaffolding for the course set up, including the books I’ll require my students to read:
- Paul C. Gutjahr, An American Bible: A History of the Good Book in the United States, 1777-1880, which I believe will riase some interesting questions about 19th Century print culture here in the US.
- Robert Sklar, Movie-Made America. Still one of the strongest and most accessible cultural histories of the cinema. I’ll probably supplement his book with more recent accounts of waning studio profits and new distribution technologies (these discussions of film are obviously quite timely).
- Susan Douglas, Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination. In part, this is an excuse to spend some more time with another cool book, but discussions about the social role of radio also now seem timely with the emergence of podcasts, internet radio, and other modes of broadcasting (or narrowcasting as the case may be).
- Jeffrey Sconce, Haunted Media. I’ll likely use the “haunted media” theme as a framing device for the course and insert Sconce’s chapters on telegraphy, telephone, radio, etc, throughout the semester.
I’ll certainly supplement these books with some relevant historical essays (too tired to list them right now) and required encounters with relevant texts (Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, possibly the Bela Lugosi film, Murder by Television, and others). I’m thinking out loud over here, so any suggestions or observations would be welcome.