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

Spring 2004

AMS 315 • Television and American Culture

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
26205 MWF
10:00 AM-11:00 AM
CPE 2.212

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. This course is divided into four units. Our first unit, History of American Television, will briefly chart the development of broadcasting in the United States. We will focus on the formation of the networks, the changing regulatory policies imposed on broadcasting, and the integration of broadcasting into American homes. In Representing America, the next unit, we will consider how—and whether--television shows reflect the mores and values of society; in other words, we will look at TV shows as historical documents. Using prime-time depictions of families as our case study—in shows like I Love Lucy, All in the Family, The Cosby Show-- we will examine the representations of American domestic life from the 1950s to the present. TV and American Institutions will look at the way television has transformed religion, news reporting, politics, sports, and movies. We will explore how these institutions in American life have been altered by the rise of television. Our final unit, TV’s Effects on Society, will focus on how intellectuals, social scientists, artists, writers, and filmmakers have understood the changes that television has wreaked on American society. Looking at figures from the past five decades, we will trace the continuity and the change in the critiques launched against television.


Required Texts: Don DeLillo, White Noise Janet Staiger, Blockbuster TV Course packet Films: A Face in the Crowd The Truman Show


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