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Judith G. Coffin

Associate FacultyPh.D., 1985, Yale University

Associate Professor in the Department of History, College of Liberal Arts
Judith G. Coffin



European social and cultural history, especially 20th-century France; gender, sexuality and history of feminism, early twentieth-century consumption; French imperialism and race relations; the "sexual revolution" in post-war France


College: Liberal Arts

Home Department: History

Education: Ph.D., Yale

Research interests:European social and cultural history, especially 20th-century France; gender, sexuality and history of feminism, early twentieth-century consumption; French imperialism and race relations; the "sexual revolution" in post-war France .

Courses taught:
WGS 393 European Gender History and Theory

HIS 323L Europe Since 1919

Awards/Honors: 2006-2007 William David Blunk Memorial Professor


WGS 393 • Radio, Psychology, Mod Europe

47314 • Fall 2010
Meets T 500pm-800pm GAR 1.122
(also listed as HIS 383)

Few developments in the early twentieth century were “bigger than radio.” Radio promised to overturn journalism, entertainment, advertising, and the practice and conception of politics – it went to the very heart of states’ relations to their citizens. Radio’s history was intimately bound up in the rise of new forms of twentieth century politics, both democratic and authoritarian. FDR’s “fireside chats” and Hitler’s speeches are only the most familiar examples; the relationship of radio to movements of national liberation was no less important. From the 1920s through the 1960s and beyond, radio riveted the attention of an extraordinarily wide variety of social thinkers: psychologists interested in the effects of oral communications; psychoanalysts keen on the relationship between hearing, the disembodied voice, and the unconscious; sociologists studying audiences, critical theorists trying to understand the relationship between the new media, its organization, and new kinds of authority.  Paul Lazarsfeld’s Princeton Radio Project, for instance, not only bridged European social theory, empirical sociology, and commerce (marketing, opinion polling, and audience surveys) in almost unprecedented ways, but in doing so created a force field that attracted C. Wright Mills, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Ernest Dichter, pioneer in the psychology of (sexualized) marketing. 

This seminar combines the social and political history of radio broadcasting with an intellectual and cultural history of communications research (including its links to psychology and psychoanalysis). We will trace how conceptions of radio’s persuasive powers took shape and changed over the course of the twentieth century. We will consider the relationship between “audio” and “visual” culture. We cannot do everything in one course, but we will at least sample some of the new work of the “sonic boom:” research being done in history, sociology, comparative literature, anthropology, and media studies.

The literature on the topic is interdisciplinary. Students from all fields are welcome and will be able to work on topics they choose. 


The first two thirds of the class will be devoted to common reading, and students will write weekly papers on that common reading. (30%) Attendance and participation in seminar discussions are essential. (30%) In the last third of the class, students will pursue their own short research projects. (15 pages, 30%)


The reading list is still being established, since new material comes out every week.

Michele Hilmes and Jason Loviglio, eds., Radio Reader: Essays in the Cultural History of Radio (New York: Routledge 2001).

Debra Rae Cohen, Michael Coyle & Jane Lewty, eds., Broadcasting Modernism (2009). 

Horkheimer and Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment.

David Jenemann, Adorno in America.

Anke Birkenmaier, “From Surrealism to Popular Art: Paul Deharme’s Radio Theory,” Modernism/Modernity 16, no. 2 (2009): 357-374.

Hadley Cantril, The Psychology of Radio (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1935).

Tamara Chaplin, Turning on the mind : French Philosophers on Television (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007). 

Paul Deharme, “"Proposition for a Radiophonic Art," La Nouvelle Revue Française vol 30 (1928): 413-23,” Modernism/Modernity (2009): 403-413.

Henri F Ellenberger, The Discovery of the Unconscious: The history and Evolution of Dynamic Psychiatry (New York: Basic Books, 1970).

Paul Felix Lazarsfeld, Radio and the Printed Page: An Introduction to the Study of Radio and its Role in the Communication of Ideas (New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1940).

Susan J. Douglas, Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination . . . from Amos 'n' Andy and Edward R. Murrow to Wolfman Jack and Howard Stern (Times Books, 1999).

Alain Corbin, Village Bells: Sound and Meaning in the Nineteenth-Century French Countryside, Martin Thom, trans. (New York, 1998).

Veit Erlmann, ed., Hearing Cultures: Essays on Sound, Listening, and Modernity (Oxford, 2004).

Horst J. P. Bergmeir & Rainer E. Lotz, Hitler's Airwaves: The Inside Story of Nazi Radio Broadcasting and Propaganda Swing (Yale University Press, 1997). [Includes audio CD].


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