Spring 2011: Comm 450
Media and Popular Culture
[MWF 10:00-10:50 am]
: TBA or by appointment
Throughout human history, philosophers have sought to make sense of the ‘made world’ of human
beings. From the wheel to the codex to the digital camera, the things we might refer to as media
and technology have fascinated philosophers because of the ways that they shift the lives of
humans. This course is an introduction to that historical tradition, focusing on our most recent
This course is organized about two primary sites of inquiry: theoretical history and practical
application. First, we will consider historical approaches to media and popular culture. In this
section of the course we will read primary texts from the theoretical frameworks that scholars have
used to understand media throughout the 20
century (Materialism, Psychoanalysis, Semiotics,
Culturalism, and Postmodernism). Second, we will explore media and popular culture in the U.S.
context, reading scholarship that applies critical theory to concrete reality.
Comm 140 (Introduction to Media Theory, History, and Criticism) is a prerequisite for this course.
Some of you have been granted an exception, and are taking the class even though you haven’t
taken Comm 140. If you are feeling lost, check out the folder titled ‘140’ under course documents
on blackboard, where you will find some of the key readings from the intro course.
The reading won’t be easy; it isn’t supposed to be. This course is meant to be challenging. It is my
job to help you improve at three tasks (critical thinking, careful reading, and writing). It is your job
to do all reading and writing assignments. If you show up, do the work, and seek help when you
need it, you will do very well in this class. If you don’t do these things, you will not succeed. This
syllabus is a contract. Read through it. Decide if you wish to remain enrolled in the course. If you
choose to stay, you are choosing to abide by the policies set forth in this contract. I am here to
lecture, facilitate a discussion and evaluate your work. But make no mistake, your success or failure
in this course is determined by you and you alone.
Civilization and its Discontents
Frankenstein: Or, The Modern Prometheus
Contacting the Instructor:
I welcome your emails and visits to office hours, but please, be
professional in your interactions with me. I am not your mother, your sister, or your employee. If