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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Spring 2006

AMS 315 • American Television: History, Politics and Culture-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
28550 MWF
10:00 AM-11:00 AM
MEZ 1.118

Course Description

Television, media critic Jack Gould announced in 1946, either will be a blessing such as rarely comes to mankind or a veritable menace of frightening proportions. Such a statement might have seemed hyperbolic back then, the year that television first was introduced to the American consumer public. In the decades to follow, however, television would pervade millions of American homes and dominate American popular culture. Whether TV is a blessing or a menace, it has undeniably shaped and changed American culture. The goal of this course is not to assess the merits of television, but to understand the enormous impact television has had on myriad aspects of American life. This class will look at both the development of the medium and at the larger cultural context in which it flourished and continues to thrive. Arranged chronologically, this course will investigate: how TV worksthe organization of networks, the role of the FCC in regulating television, the impact of citizens groups in the shaping of network practices; programming trends on prime-time television; the role television has played in American political historyfor example, in the cold war, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and the current Iraq war; the shifting intellectual, artistic, and social-scientific understandings of televisions cultural and social impact; TV and the development of a nationaland globalcommunity. The course format largely will be a combination of lecture and discussion.


Primary source materials will compose a large portion of the texts we will use in this course. The course readings will include fiction (John Cheevers The Enormous Radio, Donald Barthelmes And Now Lets Hear It For the Ed Sullivan Show, Don DeLillos White Noise), speeches (Newton Minows Television and the Public Interest, Spiro Agnews The Des Moines Speech), polemics (excerpts from Nicholas Johnsons How to Talk Back to Your Television Set, Jerry Manders Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, and Bernard Goldbergs Bias), and intellectual interpretations of the impact of television (excerpts from Marshall McLuhans Understanding Media, C. Wright Mills The Power Elite, Horace Newcombs Television: The Most Popular Art). In addition, we will read chapters from contemporary television scholarship including: Lynn Spigel, Make Room for TV; Robert McChesney, Rich Media, Poor Democracy; Tino Balio Hollywood in the Age of Television; Anna McCarthy, Ambient Television; Donald Bogle, Prime-Time Blues, Sasha Torres, Black, White and In Color; Steven Classen, Watching Jim Crow. This class will also use non-print texts including television screenings, films, video art and sculpture. We will watch a wide range of television programming in entertainment (from live anthology dramas like Marty to contemporary reality shows), news (Edward R. Murrows See it Now to CBSs 60 Minutes), and political commercials (from the 1960 election to the 2004 election). We will also watch films that comment on televisions impact on American culture like A Face in the Crowd, Network, and The Truman Show. And we will study the art of Edward Kienholz and Nam June Paik to investigate how visual artists understood and integrated the new medium of television into the arts.


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