Doctoral Program Seminar II, Spring 2004

Mondays, 12 – 3 p.m., 7th Floor, Room 718 (Conference Room), 239 Greene Street

Prof. Rodney Benson

Room 726, Department of Culture and Communication, NYU

239 Greene Street, NYC 10003


Telephone: 212/992-9490

Course Packet: Available (by early February) at Advanced Copy, LaGuardia Place

Books: Available at NYU Bookstore


This course will offer a tour d’horizon of contemporary media studies, sub-divided into major areas that correspond, roughly, to specializations of faculty in this department.  

Course Policies

In addition to active and alert attendance, this course has three requirements: Weekly E-mail Reading Critiques (250-400 words), 1-2 in-class comparative presentations on readings, and Three 5-page (1200-1300 words) Comparative Theory Essays.

(1) Weekly 250-400 word e-mail reading critiques will be due no later than 9 p.m., the Sunday immediately before the class meets each week. These mini-essays are expected to be rough works-in-progress, thinking-out-loud if you will. You are encouraged not only to post your own valuable thoughts, but to respond to those of your fellow students. Grading will be based on the ensemble of your texts, so don’t sweat every word or panic if your contribution one week is less than brilliant. Obviously, there is no single correct reading of these texts. What matters, not solely for your grade but for the quality of class discussion, is that you engage with the texts, take positions and defend them with evidence and reasoning, and raise questions that can help us all improve the quality of our theorizing and research. Some suggestions on the content of these mini-critiques: React, don’t summarize. Compare with other readings we have examined. Tear the reading apart, sure, but also tell us which aspects you find illuminating, or useful for your own research.

(2) In-class comparative presentations. In general, the first half of each class period will be devoted to the professor’s contextualizing remarks and open discussion. After a break, one to two students will begin the second half of the course with a brief presentation (10-15 minutes) comparing the current week’s readings with at least one other week (generally the week previous). Students are encouraged to build at least one of their comparative 5-page essays upon this in-class presentation.

(3) Comparative theory essays (total of 3, each 1200-1300 words, about five pages). Compare two theorists, using only texts read in the class. What is the nub of their respective arguments? What kind of evidence do they provide? How are the two theorists alike? How are they different? Do they supplement each others’ failings, or only compound them? You may want to zero in on just one aspect of each theorist, and highlight hidden insights, or logical inconsistencies. Rather than broad and shallow, aim for a focused, deep analysis. If you can fill five pages with closely-argued, well-supported, logical argumentation, you will have truly accomplished something.

These requirements will count toward your final grade as follows:

Attendance/Participation 10 percent

In-Class Comparative Presentation(s) 10 percent

Weekly E-mail Critiques 20 percent

Comparative Theory Papers (20 percent each) 60 percent


Baker, C. Edwin. 2002. Media, Markets and Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press

Bourdieu, Pierre and Loic Wacquant. 1992. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology.

Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Garnham, Nicholas. 2000. Emancipation, the Media, and Modernity. Oxford: Oxford

University Press.

Lembo, Ron. 2000. Thinking through television. Cambridge: Cambridge University


Levinson, Paul. 1999. Digital McLuhan. New York: Routledge.

Luhmann, Niklas. 2000. The Reality of the Mass Media. Stanford, CA: Stanford

University Press.

Rajagopal, Arvind. 2001. Politics After Television. Cambridge: Cambridge University


Williams, Raymond. 1999. Television: Technology and Cultural Form. London:

Routledge Classics.

Schedule (subject to revision; selections from course packet indicated with *)


The Public Sphere

1.26 Introduction and overview: Habermas selections (handout)

2.2   Garnham, Emancipation, the Media, and Modernity

2.9   Rajagopal, Politics After Television

[2.16 Holiday]

Cognitive systems and Cultural fields

2.23 Course will not meet

(To be rescheduled: Luhmann, The Reality of the Mass Media)

3. 1 Bourdieu and Wacquant, An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology

3.8 Bourdieu and the Journalistic Field(*Introduction and selected chapters)

3.12 Comparative Essay #1 due

[3.15-3.20   SPRING BREAK]

Policy Studies

3.22    Baker, Media, Markets and Democracy


3. 29 Audiences: Lembo, Thinking Through Television; *Stuart Hall, “Encoding/Decoding”

4.5     Cultural theory and anthropology: *Clifford Geertz (selections from The Interpretation of Cultures and Local Knowledge); *Faye Ginsburg et al. (selections from Media Worlds: Anthropology on New Terrain)

4.12 Gender and media: *Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”; Maria Laplace, “Producing and Consuming the Woman’s Film”; *Susan Murray, “Ethnic Masculinity and Early Television’s Vaudeo Star”; *Radha Hegde, “A View from Elsewhere: Locating Difference and the Politics of Representation from a Transnational Feminist Perspective”; *Lynne Joyrich, “Good reception? Television, Gender, and the Critical View”

4.16 Comparative Essay #2 Due


4.19 McLuhan

*Understanding Media (excerpts); *“Theories of technology” in Claude Fischer, America Calling: A Social History of the Telephone

4.26 Levinson, Digital McLuhan

5. 3   Raymond Williams, Television: Technology and Cultural Form

5.10 Comparative Essay #3 due