GNEL 628 (AMST)
The Culture Industry
01/26/2004 - 05/08/2004
Tuesday 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM
Public Affairs Center 421
Mass culture is the culture of the industrial revolution. Unlike popular culture, which is the culture that people have been producing for themselves for thousands of years, mass culture is culture that has been manufactured for the mass market. Mass culture is not a culture that people make, it is one that people consume. Popular culture is singing in a church choir or playing half-court basketball in a neighborhood park; mass culture is ordering a CD of movie soundtrack from Amazon.com or spending an evening watching MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL.
The culture industry in America can trace its origins to the efforts of 19th-century publishers to create a broad audience for books, magazines, and newspapers. By examining the ways in which movie studios sought to tap into this audience in the early 20th century, just as radio and television broadcasters would do so in the mid-20th century, this course considers how the purveyors of mass culture in America have succeeded in transforming the creative work of writers, artists, actors, and musicians into consumer goods subject to the forces of supply and demand. Although critics have long complained that this industry has cheapened the realm of culture by subjecting the muse of creative endeavor to the logic of the market, others have celebrated the culture industry's role in democratizing the arts by liberating it from the parlors of the elite and making its pleasures available for ordinary citizens to enjoy.
The first half of this course examines the ways in which culture industry entrepreneurs in the 19th century developed a market for working-class leisure through investment in entertainments such as dime novels, amusement parks, dance halls, and movie theaters. The second half explores the maturation of this industry in the 20th century through an examination of the rise of the development of the radio and television broadcasting industries and, among other things, the emergence of the Harlequin Romance as a popular literary genre.
Texts for the course include: Michael Denning, MECHANIC ACCENTS: DIME NOVELS AND WORKING-CLASS CULTURE IN AMERICA; Roy Rosenzweig, EIGHT HOURS FOR WHAT WE WILL: WORKERS AND LEISURE IN AN INDUSTRIAL CITY, 1870?1920; Kathy Peiss, CHEAP AMUSEMENTS: WOMEN AND LEISURE IN TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY NEW YORK; Melvin Patrick Ely, THE ADVENTURES OF AMOS AND ANDY: A SOCIAL HISTORY OF AN AMERICAN PHENOMENON; David Marc, DEMOGRAPHIC VISTAS: TELEVISION IN AMERICAN CULTURE; Janice Radway, READING THE ROMANCE: WOMEN, PATRIARCHY, AND POPULAR LITERATURE; Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson, eds., RETHINKING POPULAR CULTURE: CONTEMPORARY PERSPECTIVE IN CULTURAL STUDIES.
Grades will be based on brief weekly writing assignments, class discussion, and a final paper.
If warrented by the student's work in the course, this course may, by petition, be counted toward the arts, humanities, or social sciences concentration.
A syllabus for this course is available at:
David Phillips (B.A., M.A. University of California at Santa Cruz; Ph.D. Yale University) is associate dean of the college and junior class dean at Wesleyan University. He recently led a book discussion series for the Vermont Council on the Humanities called "Bodies, Desires, and Modern Times."
Consent of Instructor Required: No
|Level: GLSP||Credits: 3||Enrollment Limit: 18|
Texts to purchase for this course:
Michael Denning, MECHANIC ACCENTS (Verson Books) Paperback
David Marc, DEMOGRAPHIC VISTAS (University of Pennsylvania Press) Paperback
C. Mukerji & M. Schudson, RETHINKING POPLULAR CULTURE (University of California Press) Paperback
Kathy Peiss, CHEAP AMUSEMENTS (Temple University Press) Paperback
Janice Radway, READING THE ROMANCE (University of North Carolina Press) Paperback
Roy Rosenzweig, EIGHT HOURS FOR WHAT WE WILL (Cambridge University Press) Paperback
Susan Smulyan, SELLING RADIO (Smithonian Institution Press) Paperback
Michael Weiss, THE CLUSTERED WORLD (Little Brown & Company) Hardcover
READING MATERIALS AVAILABLE AT BROAD STREET BOOKS, 45 BROAD STREET, MIDDLETOWN, 860-685-7323
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