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

Fall 2003

AMS 315 • Television and American Culture

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
26345 MWF
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
GAR 111

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 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 examine the effects of TV on American culture and, in turn, will explore how currents in American culture shape TV programming. Some of the topics we will investigate include: how TV works—the organization of networks and the production of programming; the role television played in American political history—for example, in the cold war, the civil rights movement, the sixties counter-cultural rebellion, Vietnam, and Watergate; the shifting intellectual, artistic, and scientific understandings of television’s cultural and social impact; TV and the development of a national—and global—community.

Grading Policy

Final grades will be determined thus: Class participation: 15 %; Mid-term exam: 20%; Short essay: 15 %; Research Paper: 40 %; Quizzes: 10%


Erik Barnouw, Tube of Plenty; James Baughman, The Republic of Mass Culture; Laurence Bergreen, Look Now, Pay Later; Aniko Bodroghkozy, Groove Tube: Sixties Television and Youth Rebellion; Michael Curtin, Redeeming the Wasteland; Curtin and Spiegel, The Revolution Wasn’t Televised; Todd Gitlin, Inside Prime Time; Marshall McCluhan, Understanding Media; Robert McChesney, Rich Media, Poor Democracy; Mark Crispin Miller, Boxed In; Horace Newcomb, TV: The Most Popular Art; John O’Connor, American History/American Television; Gilbert Seldes, The Public Art; Lynn Spiegel, Make Room for TV; Janet Staiger, Blockbuster TV: Must-See Sitcoms in the Network Films: Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? Network The Truman Show


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