Course Description

This course will survey some fundamental theories about mass media and culture. We will methodically summarize, evaluate, and compare these writings and critical approaches. The writings we will cover criticize media as popular culture, a commercial industry, and a territory for cultural citizenship.

Because this is a three (3) unit course, you’re expected to spend an average of nine (9) hours per week working on this course.

Remote Online Course

This course will be conducted remotely.

Most learning activities will be asynchronous, meaning that you will complete these on your own time during the assigned week.

In addition, there will be a number of synchronous activities, including a weekly live discussion session on Zoom. Office hours, including the mandatory consultations about the essays, will also be synchronously held on Zoom.

We will not be using Blackboard.

Queens College offers loaner devices to students who need them for remote instruction. Contact Queens College ITS for how to request a device.

Microsoft Teams

Follow these directions to join our course on Microsoft Teams:

  1. Open a browser window on your computer or device
  2. Go to https://login.microsoft.com/
  3. Enter your CUNY Login username as the username: firstname.lastname00@login.cuny.edu. Note that the username is @login.cuny.edu not @qmail.cuny.edu
  4. Sign in to CUNY Web Applications using your CUNY Login username and password
  5. Open another browser window and go to https://teams.microsoft.com
  6. Go to Join a Team using a code
  7. Enter the code I provided in class or by email

If you’re having trouble, note the following:

  • Make sure you’re logged into your @login.cuny.edu not your @qmail.cuny.edu account. 
* You can add another account to switch to the correct @login.cuny.edu account.
  • Microsoft Teams doesn’t work on Mac or iOS Safari. You can download the Microsoft Teams apps or use another browser, such as Chrome or Firefox.
  • Make sure you’re not signing in to live.com domain. Those are for personal accounts. The correct URL is https://login.microsoft.com for your CUNY account.

After this initial set up, you can find our Team through this direct link for Section 3 Thursday, for Section 4 Friday, or finding it at https://teams.microsoft.com.

Goals

This Media Criticism course is best regarded as a criticism of media criticism, or “media criticism criticism,” if you prefer. This course will require you to read one or two essays per week before class that criticizes some aspect of mass media and culture. At each class session, we will cover the historical and scholarly context in which the essays were written and extract some key terms and concepts. In subsequent classes, we will revisit some of the essays compare them the other essays we have already read. By the end of the course, you will be familiar with the literature of media studies and will be able to understand any other essays you encounter in media studies and several other fields. Your success in this course depends less on memorizing class material and more on developing the ability to be a critical media scholar through intensive reading and argumentative writing.

Writing Intensive Course at Queens College

This course is a Writing Intensive (W) course and fulfills one Writing Intensive requirement. W classes include a significant portion of time devoted to writing instruction. This may include things such as revision workshops, discussions of rhetorical strategies, or reflective writing about writing assignments

You will learn about writing in this course through practice and through reading about writing.

No one can teach you to write. It is something that you will have to learn for yourself. Every writer approaches the craft differently so it would be a waste of time to teach you The One Right Way to write because that would be dishonest. It doesn’t exist. However, I can relate my own experiences in hopes that you discover what works for you. In this course, you will write two comparative essays using a four-part process:

  1. researching: reading and learning about your subject
  2. outlining: organizing what you’ve learned into a coherent, linear narrative
  3. drafting: composing prose corresponding to your outline
  4. revising: proofreading, copyediting, and simplifying your prose

You will also read two books about writing that emphasize some important features for every writer:

  • clarity: write what you mean and how it makes sense to you
  • simplicity: keep it simple
  • persistence: writing is a task and it involves a lot of repetition; writing is rewriting
  • empathy: think about the human who is reading your words

We will consider this when working on your comparative essays.

You should also review Goals for Student Writing published by Writing at Queens College.

Instructor

Juan Monroy

You can reach me by email at juan.monroy@qc.cuny.edu. To maintain professional standards, please only use your CUNY email account to contact me. I usually respond within a day.

Office Hours

Office hours will be held remotely. Sign up for an appointment at https://juanmonroy.com/officehours.

After you sign up, I will email you a Zoom Meeting link for you to join the meeting.

Writing Center

Would you like free in-person assistance with writing your papers?

The Writing Center at Queens College offers individual tutoring for your writing assignments. Make an appointment with a Writing Consultant to get help with any writing assignments.

Many students in the past have attested that visiting the Writing Center to get help with writing assignments was the most effective thing they did at Queens College.

Counseling Services at Queens College

Counseling Services are available to any Queens College student. They assist students with personal concerns that can affect their enjoyment of and success in college. Services are free and confidential. All sessions take place on Zoom or by telephone, depending on student preference.

To make an appointment, students should call 718–997–5420 and leave a message with their phone number and CUNY ID. You can also e-mail counselingservices@qc.cuny.edu to set up an appointment.

https://www.qc.cuny.edu/studentlife/services/counseling/counseling/Pages/default.aspx

Welcome Survey

Please complete the Welcome Survey for this course.

The survey serves to ensure that you can access Microsoft Forms and that you agree to abide by the course policies.

Please complete the Welcome Survey by Tuesday, September 13. If you cannot complete this by the deadline, please email me. Otherwise, I will have to report you as not attending the class and you will be dropped from the course.

Modules

This course is broken up into twelve modules. Each module consists of:

  • assigned readings from the textbooks
  • occasional screenings posted on CUNY OneDrive and linked in this course website
  • a weekly live discussion session on Zoom

The material from each module will be posted in the course schedule below.

You must complete the material for each module before our weekly class meeting. A subsequent module will be available the following day.

Readings

Assigned readings are listed in the course schedule below and available from the following sources:

  1. Ouellette, Laurie, ed. The Media Studies Reader. New York: Routledge, 2013.
  2. Dreyer, Benjamin. Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. New York: Random House, 2019.
  3. Zinssner, William. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, 7th ed. New York: Harper Collins, 2006.

The books are available on reserve at the Rosenthal Library.

Most readings from The Media Studies Reader are also available from their original sources at one of the following:

  • Linked below in the course schedule. Use your CUNY Login to authenticate.
  • Linked under each module on CUNY OneDrive.

Audiobook versions are available from Audible for the following books:

  • Benjamin Dreyer, Dreyer’s English: This is the complete text of the print book, read by the author. I’ve auditioned it, and I recommend it. Dreyer’s narration is very entertaining and engaging.
  • William Zinsser, On Writing Well (abridged): This is an abridged version and is not the same as the 7th (“30th Anniversary”) edition listed above. I have not auditioned this audiobook so I cannot recommend it nor can I recommend against using this.

Both audiobooks are also available through Audible’s subscription program. You can sign up for a free trial.

Disclosure: links to Amazon, including Audible, are affiliate links. I will receive a referral payment should you buy or rent something or if you sign up for a trial.

Screenings

There are a few screenings I would like you to do before our live discussion session. These are linked in the course schedule below and available on CUNY OneDrive.

Live Discussion Section

All students must participate in the live discussion session.

Join the session on Zoom by signing in using your CUNY Login. This article explains how to log in to Zoom using CUNY Login Credentials.

During this discussion session, we will form into breakout rooms and closely analyze the readings for the week.

These sessions will have live transcription and will be recorded for only students in our class.

Reading and Writing Media Criticism

Reading Media Criticism: Low-Stake Exercises

In the first half of the semester, you will complete a series of low-stake writing exercises, where you answer questions about the content, the argument, and the structure of an essay.

These exercises will help you understand how media criticism is written and how a conversation develops between various writers. Each exercise will concentrate on the following parts of a media criticism essay:

  1. summary and evaluation of an essay
  2. review of existing literature
  3. author’s methodology
  4. the use of evidence to develop an argument

Each exercise will be available on Microsoft Teams. All four exercises are required and are worth 25% of your final grade.

Writing Media Criticism: Media and Culture Industries

In the second of the course, you will take what you’ve learned about the various parts of a media criticism essay to write your own.

You will write a comparative essay that compares Herbert Schiller’s “The Corporation and the Production of Culture” essay with an essay we’ve studied in the second half of the class.

  • Assignment Guidelines
  • Draft and Outline on Microsoft Teams
    • Due Friday, November 4, 11:59 PM
  • Mandatory individual office hours, November 7–19: Book an appointment at https://juanmonroy.com/officehours
  • Review my Paper Writing Tips before you prepare your final essay
  • Final Essay on Microsoft Teams
    • Due Friday, December 2, 11:59 PM
    • No late papers accepted after Friday, December 8
  • Length: 1,600 words
  • Weight: 25%

Exams

Exam 1

The first take-home exam consists of questions related to the assigned readings and the attendant discussions from the first half of the course.

This is an open-book exam: you may use your copy of The Media Studies Reader for the exam, but no other material is permitted, necessary or even very helpful.

  • Available on Microsoft Teams
    • Friday, October 14, 12:00 PM
  • Due on Microsoft Teams
    • Friday, October 21, 11:59 PM
  • Weight: 20%

Exam 2

The second take-home exam consists of questions related to the assigned readings and the attendant discussions from the second half of the course.

This is an open-book exam: you may use your copy of The Media Studies Reader for the exam and the Sasha Torres essay, but no other material is permitted, necessary or even very helpful.

  • Available on Microsoft Teams
    • Friday, December 9, 12:00 PM
  • Due on Microsoft Teams
    • Friday, December 16, 11:59 PM
  • Weight: 20%

Course Schedule

Complete all activities no later than the date listed on this course schedule and on Microsoft Teams.

Getting Started

  1. Get the textbooks as described above:
    1. The Media Studies Reader
    2. Dreyer’s English
    3. On Writing Well, 7th ed.
  2. Read the policies governing this course
  3. Review the Goals for Student Writing published by Writing at Queens College
  4. Complete the Welcome Survey
  5. Listen to a conversation between Preet Bhara and Benjamin Dreyer about the “The Laws of Language” and the “morality of writing.” It is available at Cafe: scrub to 0:10:24 where the conversation begins
  6. Join the Live Discussion Session
    • Sec 3 Thu: August 25, 7:00–8:00 PM EDT on Zoom
    • Sec 4 Fri: August 26, 10:00–11:00 AM EDT on Zoom

Module 1: Mass Culture and the Culture Industry

  • Read Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception, in Dialectic of Enlightenment”
    • Available in The Media Studies Reader, 13–30
    • Available on Marxists.org (note that this translation differs from the one in The Media Studies Reader)
  • Read the Wikipedia page on The Culture Industry
  • Watch "Critical Theory, The Frankfurt School, Adorno and Horkheimer and the Culture Industry on YouTube
  • Join the Live Discussion Session
  • Complete the Reading Media Criticism: Adorno and Horkheimer assignment on Microsoft Teams
Readings about Writing
  • Read Zinsser, “Introduction”
  • Read Dreyer, “Introduction”

Module 2: Lipsitz and Popular Culture

  • Read George Lipsitz, “Popular Culture: This Ain’t No Sideshow”
    • Available in The Media Studies Reader, 45–55
    • An earlier version of this essay is available from QC Library
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s reading: on Lipsitz
  • Join the Live Discussion Session
  • Complete the Reading Media Criticism: George Lipsitz assignment on Microsoft Teams
Readings about Writing
  • Begin reading Zinsser, Part 1, “Principles”
  • Read Dreyer, Chapter 1, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Prose”

Module 3: Benjamin and Mechanical Reproduction

Readings about Writing
  • Conclude reading Zinsser, Part 1, “Principles”

Module 4: Media, Technology, and Power

  • Read Lev Manovich, “The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life: From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production”
    • Available in The Media Studies Reader, 80–87
    • Available from QC Library"
  • Read Lynn Spigel, “The Domestic Economy of Television Viewing in Postwar America”
    • Available in The Media Studies Reader, 131–145
    • Available from QC Library
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings: on Manovich and on Spigel
  • Join the Live Discussion Session
  • Complete the Reading Media Criticism: Lev Manovich and Lynn Spigel assignment on Microsoft Teams
Readings about Writing
  • Read Zinsser, Part 2, “Methods”

Module 5: Television and Authority

  • Read Susan Douglas, “The Turn Within: The Irony of Technology in a Globalized World”
    • Available in The Media Studies Reader, 93–104
    • Available from QC Library
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings: on Douglas
  • Join the Live Discussion Session
  • Complete the Reading Media Criticism: Susan Douglas assignment on Microsoft Teams
Readings about Writing
  • Review Zinsser, Part 3, “Forms”
  • Read Dreyer, Chapter 2, “Rules and Nonrules”
  • Read Dreyer, Chapter 3, “67 Assorted Things to Do (and Not to Do) With…”

Module 6: Media, Industry, and Political Economy

  • Read Herbert Schiller, “The Corporation and the Production of Culture”
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings by Schiller
  • Watch Herbert Schiller Read the Sunday New York Times (1981), available on Vimeo
  • Join the Live Discussion Session
Readings about Writing

Exam 1

  • Complete Exam 1 on Microsoft Teams
  • There is no live discussion session today

Module 7: Media and Niche Marketing

  • Read Michael Curtin, “On Edge: Culture Industries in the Neo-Network Era”
  • Read Hector Amaya, “Citizenship, Diversity, Law and Ugly Betty
    • Available in The Media Studies Reader, 586–597
    • Available from QC Library
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings by Curtin and by Amaya
  • Join the Live Discussion Session
Readings about Writing
  • Read Dreyer, Chapter 6, “A Little Grammar is a Dangerous Thing”

Module 8: Media, Technology and Control

  • Read Mark Andrejevic, “The Work of Being Watched: Interactive Media and the Exploitation of Self-Disclosure”
  • Read Tom McCourt and Patrick Burkart, “When Creators, Corporations and Consumers Collide: Napster and the Development of Online Music Distribution”
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings by Andrejevic and by McCourt and Burkart
  • Join the Live Discussion Session
Readings about Writing
  • Begin reading Zinsser, Part 4, “Attitudes”

Module 9: Media Audiences and Fan Culture, April 14

  • Read Lawrence Grossberg, “The Affective Sensibility of Fandom”
    • Available in The Media Studies Reader, 458–465
    • Available from QC Library," 50–65
  • Read Mizuko Ito, “Japanese Media Mixes and Amateur Cultural Exchange”
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings by Grossberg and by Ito
  • Watch Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Fans of My Little Pony (Laurent Malaquais, 2012), available on OneDrive
  • Join the Live Discussion Session
Readings about Writing
  • Continue reading Zinsser, Part 4, “Attitudes”
  • Read Dreyer, Chapter 8, “Notes on, Amid a List of, Frequently and Easily Misspelled Words”
  • Read Dreyer, Chapter 9, “Peeves and Crochets”

Module 10: Media, Citizenship, and the Public Sphere

  • Read Stuart Cunningham, “Popular Media as Public ‘Sphericules’ for Diasporic Communities”
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings by Cunningham
  • Join the Live Discussion Session
Readings about Writing
  • Conclude reading Zinsser, Part 4, “Attitudes”
  • Read Dreyer, Chapter 10, “The Confusables”
  • Review Dreyer, Chapter 11, “Notes on Proper Nouns”

Module 11: Media and Cultural Citizenship

  • Read Lauren Berlant, “The Theory of Infantile Citizenship”
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s reading by Berlant
  • Watch The Simpsons, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington,” September 26, 1991. Available on OneDrive
  • Join the Live Discussion Session
Readings about Writing
  • Read Dreyer, Chapter 12, “The Trimmables”
  • Read Dreyer, Chapter 13, “The Miscellany”

Module 12: Media and Governmentality, May 12

  • Read Laurie Ouellette and James Hay, “Makeover Television, Governmentality and the Good Citizen”
    • Available in The Media Studies Reader, 573–585
    • Available from QC Library
  • Read Sasha Torres, “Television and Race,” in Janet Wasko, ed. A Companion to Television, Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 2005
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings by Ouellette and Hay and by Torres
  • Watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, “The Harris Family,” April 11, 2004. Available on OneDrive
  • Join the Live Discussion Session

Exam 2

  • Complete Exam 2 on Microsoft Teams
  • There is no live discussion session today