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ELEC-GG 2648

MEDIA HISTORIOGRAPHY

FALL 2015

Professor: Moya Luckett


Wednesdays 6.20-9 pm, Room 501, 1 Washington Place
Office Hours: Wednesdays 5-6. Fridays 1:45-4 pm Room 403, I Washington Place or by
appointment
Phone: 8-7368
Email: moya.luckett@nyu.edu
Course Description
This course explores both theories and practices of media history and analyzes
how media more generally contribute to the writing of history. We will consider
how medias ability to document the present--both in fiction and non-fictionprovides
an archive of the recent past, in turn presenting the illusion of a more complete popular
memory of the last century or so. In addition to parsing the relationship between history,
the past, and mass media, we will consider the stakes of writing media history more
broadly. What factors do we need to consider in writing about the past and how do we
treat the materials that we use in our enquiries? As the medias complexity and its own
diverse stakes shape its history, we will explore divisions between social, aesthetic,
cultural and technological media histories and the more business-minded institutional and
economic studies. In examining the materials used to write media historiesprimary and
secondary sources, archival records, trade and fan press, promotional materials and social
documentswe think about the problems of asserting truth, both on screens and the
printed page. We will also consider the particular difficulties and significance of writing
the history of popular media, especially given their seductive, if often false, claims to
"reality."
We will examine the stakes and possibilities of the questions we ask about the past--be it
the relatively distant era of silent cinema, the continual "just past" of the contemporary
film or the illusion of liveness produced by television and new media. We will consider
how media change the way the past is presented and accepted in contemporary cultures,
circulating images that are outside living memory while embodying their own periods
approaches to the past. We will also think about the stakes of this history, how it shapes
our approach towards the past and our own present as well as considering what we need
to know about the past in order to understand these seemingly transparent mass media
forms as historical documents.
We will analyze the different ways to write media history, considering the role and status
of evidence, the ways in which we might write, support and contest claims about the past.
Here we will explore the value of primary and secondary material, archival records, the
status of different film prints, trade and fan press, historical claims and methodology and
the slew of materials that can be used as a basis for media history. These questions are
even more important in the modern and postmodern era where media carry not just the
burden of news and information but are the conduits of history.

We will also look at the relationship between media and the newthe attractions of
novelty and their inherent associations with popular culture. How does this dialectic of
the new and the past affect media histories and our use of media to help us remember and
to shape our continually revised understandings and use of the past?

Course Objectives/Learning Goals


At the end of the class, you should have a deeper understanding of the following:
Debates around the theories of history and the writing of history, including questions
about sources/facts, the ever changing relation of the past to present, the role of narrative
and questions about selection and interpretations roles in history,
Medias status as historical document, source of historical understanding, mode of
preservation and dissemination.
Major developments in media history and debates around the writing of different forms
of media history.
Medias relationship to history, memory and modern events.
The problems of history in the modern era, particularly the questions raised by the
Holocaust and its histories.

Required Texts
All texts are available at NYU Bookstore.
Steve F. Anderson, Technologies of History: Visual Media and the Eccentricities of the
Past (New Hampshire: Dartmouth University Press, 2011)
E.H. Carr, What Is History? (New York: Vintage, 1961)
Lisa Gitelman and Geoffrey Pingree (eds.), New Media: 1740-1915 (Cambridge: MIT
Press, 2004)
Alison Landsberg, Engaging the Past: Mass Culture and the Production of Historical
Knowledge (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015)

Readings marked with an asterisk (*) will be available on NYU Classes.

Assignments
3 Short Papers (6-9 pages)
Presentation
Course Participation

25% each, 75% total


15%
10%

Should you chose, you have the option of writing one short paper and a second longer
research paper (12-18 pages) for your final (worth 50% of your grade) instead of three
short papers.
Presentation
Each student is responsible for presenting aspects of the readings for one week of the
class. You do not have to be comprehensivethe aim is not to reiterate what was said,
but rather to look critically at an aspect of the readings. You can also bring in other
supporting materials, including clips from films, TV programs, websites and photography,
to help develop your thoughts.
Course Policies
You are expected to come to class prepared, having completed the assigned readings and
ready to participate actively.
Attendance is mandatory.
Please be on timeif you think you will be late or know you have to miss class for some
reason, please email me. Absences for religious holidays, sickness and other valid
reasons will be excused. Please provide documentation where relevant or available.
Please silence cell phones and refrain from texting and unnecessary internet use
during class.

Plagiarism
Plagiarism involves presenting somebody elses work as your own. It is extremely
serious: a form of theft, fraud and deception. Plagiarism includesbut is not limited to:
Submitting a paper you did not write, one purchased from the internet, copied from a
classmate, written by a friend, written to order.
Copying and pasting material from the internet, books or articles or taking material and
altering it slightly (changing the odd word or two).
Not citing sources correctly.
Collaborating on a paper with a friend so that your work is substantially the same.
There will be no tolerance for plagiarism. You will receive a zero on the assignment and
the offense will be reported to the school who may take further disciplinary action.

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If you have questions about citation and the correct way to reference and quote other
peoples work, please speak to me.

Late Papers
Late work will only be accepted if you have contacted me in advance and have a valid
reason like a religious holiday, sickness, family problems or other unexpected disasters.
Please let me know when you will be able to complete the work and keep in touch with
me should any eventuality prevent you from completing work on time.

Incompletes
As with late work, incompletes will be given only to students who have contacted me in
advance (where possible) and have valid reasons for not completing the course work on
time (illness, family problems, unexpected disasters). Students taking incompletes should
also contact me to discuss a reasonable schedule for finishing the course. Please consult
the Gallatin website for the schools policy on Incompletes for more information.

Use of Laptops/Tablets
Laptops are permitted in class but ONLY for course-related activities like taking notes
and looking up relevant examples online. They must NOT be used for google chat, IM,
email, Facebook, shopping, game playing, etc.

COURSE SCHEDULE

Week 1, 9/2: Introduction: Media History and Questions of Historiography


Week 2, 9/9: Media History: Institutions, Aesthetics Texts and Society
Screenings: Clips from Im Not There (Todd Haynes, 2008), The Teddy Bears (Edwin
S. Porter, Edison, 1907).
Readings: *Smoodin, The History of Film History, *Robert C. Allen and Douglas
Gomery, Film History as History, *Christine Gledhill and Linda Willians, The Return
to History
Week 3, 9/16: Historiography and Early Cinema: Attractions, Novelty, Narrative
Screenings: Assorted Early Films (pre-1912)
Readings: *Tom Gunning, The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator, and
the Avant Garde, in Thomas Elsaesser and Adam Barker (eds.), Early Cinema: Space
Frame--Narrative (London: BFI Publishing, 1990); pp. 56-62; *Tom Gunning, Now
You See It, Now You Dont: The Temporality of the Cinema of Attractions, The Velvet
Light Trap, no. 32, Fall 1993, pp. 3-12; *Tom Gunning, "An Aesthetic of Astonishment"
Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator," in Linda Williams (ed.), Viewing Positions:
Ways of Seeing Film, pp. 114-133.
Week 4, 9/23: Novelty and New Media: Media and Their Histories
Screenings: Early films and early TV shows (UK and USA)
Readings: Carr, pp. 36-69, Gitelman, pp. xi-xxiii, 91-138, 229-262.
Week 5, 9/30: Writing Media History: Sources, Chronicles, Narrative and Historical
Methods
Screenings: TBAwill look at digitized trades, fan magazines and press books.
Readings: Landsburg, pp. 1-25; Carr, pp. 3-35, 70-143; *Hayden White, The Question
of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory, *Walter Benjamin, Theses on the
Philosophy of History (1940)
Week 6, 10/7: Popular Culture as History: Archives, Marginalia and Trivia
Screenings: Emphemeral Films and digital content, including archives.org.
Readings: Gitelman, 207-228, *Amelie Hastie, Introduction: The Collaborator, from
Cupboards of Curiosity: Women, Recollection and Film History (Durham, NC: Duke
University Press, 2007), *Amelie Hastie, The Miscellany of Film History, *Haidee
Wasson, Studying Movies at the Museum: The Museum of Modern Art and Cinemas
Changing Object
PAPER 1 DUE IN CLASS
Week 7, 10/14: Digital Histories
Screenings: TBA
Readings: Landsburg, pp. 147-180; Anderson, pp. 100-170

Week 8, 10/21: Media as History: Transcribing the Past on Screen


Screenings: Clips from The Evidence of the Film (Edwin Thanhouser, Thanhouser,
1913), The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Albatros et al, 1979,
West Germany), Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, Warner Bros., 1975)
Readings: Anderson, pp. 1- 16, Landsburg, pp. 25-110; *Robert Rosenstone, Looking
at the Past in a Postliterate Age,

Week 9: 10/28: Holocaust Historiography and the Problems of Retrieving the Past
Screenings: Clips from A Film Unfinished (Yael Hersonski, Oscilloscope et al, 2010,
Israel)
Readings: Carr, pp. 144-176, *Hayden White, "Historical Emplotment and the Problem
of Truth" in Saul Friedlander (ed.), Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the
Final Solution(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992), *Anton Kaes, "Holocaust
and the End of History: Postmodern Historiography in the Cinema, *Thomas Elsaesser,
"Subject Positions, Speaking Positions: From Holocaust, Our Hitler and Heimat to Shoah
and Schindler's List"
Week 10, 11/4: Media Events
Screenings: Footage from 9/11, Death of Princess Diana, JFK assassination and other
media events.
Readings: *Hayden White, "The Modernist Event," in Vivian Sobchack (ed.), The
Persistence of History: Cinema, Television and the Modern Event (New York:
Routledge/AFI, 1996), pp. 17-38, *Daniel Dayan, Defining Media Events: High
Holidays of Mass Communications, *Adrian Kear and Deborah Lynn Steinberg,
Ghostwriting; *Agnieszka Stepinska, 9/11 and the Transformation of Globalized Media
Events
Week 11, 11/11: The Historical Subject and Consumer Culture
Screenings: Clips from It (Clarence Badger, 1927, Famous Players-Lasky/Paramount),
Mad Men (AMC 2007-2015,) The Women (George Cukor, MGM, 1939)
Readings: *Kathryn H. Fuller-Seeley, Dish Night at the Movies: Exhibitor Promotions
and Female Audiences during the Great Depression, *Warren Susman, Personality
and the Making of Twentieth Century Culture, *Roland Marchand, Introduction,
Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-40 (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 1985).
PAPER TWO DUE IN CLASS
Week 12, 11/18: Memory, Nostalgia, History
Screenings: Clips from Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (Michael Winterbottom,
2005, BBC Films et al, UK), 2046 (Kar Wai Wong, Jet Tone et al, 2004, Hong Kong)
Readings: Anderson, pp. 49-67, 88-100, Gitelman, pp. 157-174, *Frederic Jameson,
"Nostalgia for the Present in Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic
of Late Capitalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992), pp. 279-296, *Annette
Kuhn, What to Do with Cinema Memory?
11/25: NO CLASSTHANKSGIVING BREAK

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Week 13, 12/2: Escapism and Affect: Media, Narratives and Cultural Forms as
Historical Discourses
Screenings: Clips from Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, Warner Bros., 1933),
Breaking Bad (2008-2014, AMC)
Readings: Landsburg, pp. 111-146, Anderson, pp. 17-48
Week 14, 12/9: Historicizing Audiences, Media Use and Reception
Screenings: Clips TBA
Readings: Gitelman, pp. 1-30, 175-206

FINAL PAPERS DUE DECEMBER 19