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Syllabus and Class Schedule


 
INSTRUCTOR:
Patrick Trimble
215 Wagner Building
Phone: 863-0384
e-mail: pat3@psu.edu
 
OFFICE HOURS:
Call 865-1750 for appointment
 

  REVIEW SESSION:

101 Chambers, Monday October 4 from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM

 

COURSE FOCUS:

This class examines the history and development of mass media in 20th century America with the purpose of helping the student to develop a critical approach to understanding media. It presupposes some familiarity with modern popular media and takes as its content both historical and contemporary examples as a source for analysis. Class time will consist of a blending of lectures and class discussions that will illustrate the critical approaches and terminology used in class. The student will be graded not on the ability to regurgitate information but rather on the ability to develop a thoughtful and considered critical approach to the material. While the class will offer occasional facts and data, the central material of the lectures is the theories, stylistic elements, and structural workings of media content. Key to making any critical approach work is the idea of practicing that approach on actual examples both in and out of class. Application of the terms and concepts of the class to media content is vital to a student to do well in this course.


TEXTS:
Shaking Down the Thunder: A Critical Approach to the Mass Media,
edited by Patrick Trimble, Burgess Publishing, 1996


GRADING POLICIES:

There will be three examinations during the course of the semester, each consisting of approximately sixty true/false and multiple choice questions based on reading assignments, class notes, and a practical application section known as perception. All three tests are weighted equally with the raw scores added and compared to the class mean. Class participation can also be a potential factor in a student’s final grade provided that the student has made a consistent and constructive contribution to the class; such a benefit in this size class is solely up to the discretion of the instructor. Each examination will be curved according to the class mean; a student’s grade will ultimately be determined by his or her placement above or below that mean. All grades will be considered final (unless the result of a technical or numerical error on our part), and no extra credit will be considered. All exams must be taken at the time and place scheduled; make-up examinations will only be given if the student has contacted the instructor before the day of the exam and has a legitimate and verifiable excuse relating to either a death in the immediate family or illness on the day of the examination. In either case, the burden of proof is on the student and will be accepted at the discretion of the instructor. Make-up examinations are essay exams in all circumstances.

COURSE FOCUS:

This class examines the history and development of mass media in 20th century America with the purpose of helping the student to develop a critical approach to understanding media. It presupposes some familiarity with modern popular media and takes as its content both historical and contemporary examples as a source for analysis. Class time will consist of a blending of lectures and class discussions (despite the class size) that will illustrate the critical approaches and terminology used in class. The student will be graded not on the ability to regurgitate information but rather on the ability to develop a thoughtful and considered critical approach to the material. While the class will offer occasional facts and data, the central material of the lectures is the theories, stylistic elements, and structural workings of media content. Key to making any critical approach work is the idea of practicing that approach on actual examples both in and out of class. Application of the terms and concepts of the class to media content is vital to a student to do well in this course.

As always, the instructor reserves the right to make changes in the content and form of the class as time and material permit.

 


Tentative Schedule of Class Meetings
Changes will be announced in class.
  • Reading assignment in bold type

  • Part I: Pre-20th Century Popular Culture
    1/12
    What are the Popular Arts?
    Defining the Mass Media
    Read: "Introduction"(pg. vii)
     
    1/14
    Precursors of the Mass Media:
    The Development of Narratives, Plot Devices & Stereotypes
    1/19
    Antecedents: Vaudeville, The Minstrel Show and Burlesque.
    Read: "The Stage as an Entertainment Medium" (pg.1)
    1/21
    Antecedents continued.
    "Minstrels to Musicals" (pg. 11)
     
    1/26
    Antecedents continued.
    "Minstrels to Musicals" (pg. 11)
    1/28
     
    Antecedents of the Mass Media: Early Publishing:
    The Dime Novel & The Bloody Pulps.
    Read: "Institutional Matrix: Publishing Romance Fiction" (pg. 223)
     
    2/2
    Antecedents: The Bloody Pulps.
     
    Part II: Media and Technology in the Early 20 Century
    2/4
    Early Cinema & The Beginnings of the Visual Narrative
    Read: "Photography" (pg. 27) & "Mise-en-Scene" (pg. 43)
    tape: A Trip to the Moon, The Great Train Robbery

    2/9
    Film as an Early Art Form: Illusionism and D. W. Griffith
    Read: "Birth" (pg. 61), "Film Narrative" (pg. 77) & "Griffith" (pg. 97)
    tape: The Girl and Her Trust
     
    2/11
    Beyond Griffith: Expressionism and Sergei Eisenstein
    tape: "The Odessa Steps Sequence" from Potemkin
     
    2/16
    Illusionism vs. Expressionism
    tape: Aliens (excerpt) & Brazil (excerpt)
     
    2/18
    FIRST EXAMINATION
     
    2/23
    Farce and Physical Comedy: Mack Sennett
    tape: The Bangville Police
     
    2/25
    Comedy and Charlie Chaplin
    tape: Easy Street, The Gold Rush (excerpt),
     
     
    3/2
    Comedy and Charlie Chaplin -Continued-
    tape: Modern Times (excerpt)
     
     
    3/4
    Sound comes to Film: The Talkies and Animation
    tape: The Lights of New York (excerpt), Steamboat Willie
     
    3/8 - 3/14 SPRING BREAK -- NO CLASSES
     
    3/16
    Sound Comedy: The Early Years
    tape: The Marx Brothers in Duck Soup (excerpt), The Three Stooges in An Ache in Every Stake
     
    3/18
    Screwball Comedy and Comedy Contrast
    tape: Bringing Up Baby (excerpt)
     
    3/22
    The American Studio System: Musicals and Melodrama
    Read: "The Hollywood Studio System"
    (pg. 145)
    tape: San Francisco (excerpt)
     
    3/25
    Film Noir & The Advent of the Non-genre Film
    Read: "Out of What Past?" (pg. 163)
    tape: Citizen Kane (excerpt), The Set-Up (excerpt)
     
    PART III: CHANGING FORMS OF MASS MEDIA
     
    3/30
    Sound Without Sight: Radio History
    Read: "The Entertainment Machine in the Home" (pg.123)
     
    4/1
    Radio Melodrama
     
    4/6
    SECOND EXAMINATION
     
    4/8
    Iconography: Graphic Design and Meaning
     
    4/13
    America Through the Funny Pages: Comic Strips
    Read: "Fun in Four Colors" (pg. 249)
     
    4/15
    All in Color for a Dime: The Comic Book
    Read: "What Ever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" (pg. 281)
    4/20
    Seduction of the Innocents: Comics and Paranoia
     
    PART IV: THE POST MODERN ERA
    4/22
    The Post Modern Graphic Novel
    Read: "Batman: Commodity as Myth," (pg. 269)
    "The Dialectic of Culture,"
    (pg. 295)
    "Three Key Texts"
    (pg. 315)
     
    4/27
    Post Modern Film and Television
    Post Modern Comedy
    tape: Blazing Saddles (excerpt)
    The Life of Brian (excerpt)
     
    4/29
    Post Modern Melodrama
    tape: Batman (excerpt)
     
     
     

    FINAL EXAMINATION Is scheduled from 10:10 AM to 12 Noon on 5/4 in 108 Forum.

     

    ***The Final Exam in NOT comprehensive.***

  • As always, the instructor reserves the right to make changes in the content and form of the class as time and material permit.

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