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.

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.

Loaner Devices for Remote Instruction

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

The G Building News

The Media Studies department has a newsletter. The newsletter aims to offer students an accessible platform to be informed about campus and departmental events, and hiring opportunities within the field. With all that happens throughout the semester, The G Building News overs the projects of students and faculty to inspire creativity and potential collaborations.

“The G Building News. Stay Informed. Stay Creative.”

Subscribe today at https://qcmediastudies.substack.com.

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

Microsoft Teams

We will use Microsoft Teams to submit your assignments. We will not be using Blackboard.

To access our course on Microsoft Teams, follow these steps:

  1. Go to https://teams.microsoft.com
  2. When you see the Microsoft Sign In page, enter your @login.cuny.edu username: firstname.lastname##@login.cuny.edu. Note: This is not the same as your qmail.cuny.edu username.
  3. When you see the CUNY Web Applications Login page, enter your CUNY Login username and password and complete the two-factor authentication.
  4. Locate our Team: Media Criticism, Spring 2023.

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.

Modules

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

  • recorded video lecture that introduces the reading(s) assigned in this module.
  • assigned readings from the textbooks
  • occasional screenings posted on CUNY OneDrive and linked in this course website
  • Reading Media Criticism assignment about the readings on Microsoft Teams
  • a weekly discussion session either on Zoom or in person.

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.

Module Introduction Videos

Each week, I will post a recorded video lecture that introduces you to the reading(s) assigned in this module. The video includes a brief biography of the author(s), a summary of the reading, and a discussion of terms and concepts that might help you understand the reading.

Watch the video before beginning the assigned readings and in advance of our weekly discussion session.

The recorded video lectures are available to CUNY-authenticated users on Microsoft OneDrive. Use your @login.cuny.edu credentials to access these recordings.

Readings

Assigned readings are listed in the course schedule below.

Our class uses zero-cost textbook readings available only for authorized CUNY users. There are two ways

  • Readings from QC Library: Use your CUNY Login to authenticate.
  • Readings from CUNY OneDrive: Use your CUNY Login to authenticate to CUNY Microsoft OneDrive.

Screenings

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

Weekly Discussion Sessions

All students must participate in the weekly discussion session.

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

  • Section 3
    • In-Person
    • Thursday, 1:40 PM
    • Kiely Hall, Room 321
  • Section 4
    • Remote Online Synchronous
    • Friday, 10:00 AM
    • Join on Zoom
      • Video policy: you’re welcome to have your video turned off during class, but you must participate in class and in breakout rooms
      • You must sign in to your CUNY Zoom account to participate in our weekly discussion sessions. Do not create an account or sign in with your qmail.cuny.edu address. Skip to the bottom and sign in with SSO and enter cuny.zoom.us as the company domain. Then sign in using your CUNY Login.
      • If you’re having trouble signing in, read this guide from Queens College Helpdesk
      • Each session will have live transcription and will be recorded for only students in our class
  • Attendance is mandatory
  • Weight: 10%

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.

  • four of the first five assignments are required
  • sixth exercise on Herbert Schiller reading is required
  • due each Friday, between February 3 and March 10
  • Weight: 20% 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.

Exams

Both exams are required and constitute 30% of your final grade.

  • higher exam score: 20%
  • lower exam score: 10%

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, March 10, 12:00 PM
  • Due on Microsoft Teams
    • Friday, March 17, 11:59 PM
    • assignment closes on March 19, 11:59 PM

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, March 12, 12:00 PM
  • Due on Microsoft Teams
    • Friday, March 19, 11:59 PM
    • assignment closes on March 21, 11:59 PM

Course Schedule

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

Getting Started

  1. Make sure you have access our course on Microsoft Teams. Sign in with your @login.cuny.edu Microsoft 365 account, not your Microsoft 365 @qmail.cuny.edu
  2. Read the policies governing this course
  3. Review the Goals for Student Writing published by Writing at Queens College
  4. 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
  5. Join the Weekly Discussion Session
    • Sec 3 Thu: January 26, 1:40 PM EST at Kiely Hall, Room 321. Download the handout distributed in class, available on Dropbox
    • Sec 4 Fri: January 27, 10:00 AM EST on Zoom.

Module 1: Mass Culture and the Culture Industry

  • Watch the module introduction video: The Culture Industry and Mass Culture on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception” (1944)
  • Read the Wikipedia page on The Culture Industry
  • Watch "Critical Theory, The Frankfurt School, Adorno and Horkheimer and the Culture Industry on YouTube
  • Complete the Reading Media Criticism: Adorno and Horkheimer assignment on Microsoft Teams
  • Join the Weekly Discussion Session

Module 2: Lipsitz and Popular Culture

  • Watch the module introduction video: Popular Culture on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read George Lipsitz, “Popular Culture: This Is Ain’t No Sideshow,” in Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990), 3–20
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s reading: on Lipsitz
  • Complete the Reading Media Criticism: George Lipsitz assignment on Microsoft Teams
  • Join the Weekly Discussion Session

Module 3: Benjamin and Mechanical Reproduction

  • Watch the module introduction video: Freedom from Aura in the Age of Mechanical Production on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935)
  • Read the Wikipedia page on The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s reading: on Benjamin
  • Watch John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, Episode 1 (1972) on YouTube
  • Complete the Reading Media Criticism: Walter Benjamin assignment on Microsoft Teams
  • Join the Weekly Discussion Session

Module 4: Media, Technology, and Power

  • Watch the module introduction video: New Media and Power on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Lev Manovich, “The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life: From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production?,” Critical Inquiry 35, no. 2 (January 2009): 319–31
  • Read Lynn Spigel, “The Domestic Economy of Television Viewing in Postwar America,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 6, no. 4 (1989): 337–54
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings: on Manovich and on Spigel
  • Complete the Reading Media Criticism: Lev Manovich and Lynn Spigel assignment on Microsoft Teams
  • Join the Weekly Discussion Session

Module 5: Television and Authority

  • Watch the module introduction video: Television and Authority on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Susan J. Douglas, “The Turn Within: The Irony of Technology in a Globalized World,” American Quarterly 58, no. 3 (2006): 619–38
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings: on Douglas
  • Complete the Reading Media Criticism: Susan Douglas assignment on Microsoft Teams
  • Join the Weekly Discussion Session

Module 6: Media, Industry, and Political Economy

  • Watch the module introduction video: Political Economy of Media on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Herbert I. Schiller, “The Corporation and the Production of Culture,” in Culture, Inc.: The Corporate Takeover of Public Expression (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989), 30–45
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings by Schiller
  • Watch Herbert Schiller Read the Sunday New York Times (1981), available on Vimeo
  • Complete the Reading Media Criticism: Herbert Schiller assignment on Microsoft Teams
  • Join the Weekly Discussion Session

Exam 1

  • The exam covers the material from Modules 1–6
  • Complete Exam 1 on Microsoft Teams
  • There is no weekly discussion session today

Module 7: Media and Niche Marketing

  • Watch the module introduction video: Media Industries and Niche Marketing on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Michael Curtin, “On Edge: Culture Industries in the Neo-Network Era,” in Making & Selling Culture, ed. Richard Malin Ohmann et al. (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, 1996)
  • Read H. Amaya, “Citizenship, Diversity, Law and Ugly Betty,” Media, Culture & Society 32, no. 5 (September 1, 2010): 801–17, https://doi.org/10.1177/0163443710373954.
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings by Curtin and by Amaya
  • Join the Weekly Discussion Session

Module 8: Media, Technology and Control

  • Watch the module introduction video: Media, Technology, and Control on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Mark Andrejevic, “The Work of Being Watched: Interactive Media and the Exploitation of Self-Disclosure,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 19, no. 2 (June 2002): 230–48
  • Read Tom McCourt and Patrick Burkart, “When Creators, Corporations and Consumers Collide: Napster and the Development of On-Line Music Distribution,” Media, Culture & Society 25, no. 3 (May 2003): 333–50
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings by Andrejevic and by McCourt and Burkart
  • Join the Weekly Discussion Session

Module 9: Media, Audiences, and Fan Culture

  • Watch the module introduction video: Media, Audiences, and Fan Culture on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Lawrence Grossberg, “Is There a Fan in the House?: The Affective Sensibility of Fandom,” in The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, ed. Lewis, Lisa A. (London: Routledge, 1992), 50–65
  • Read Mizuko Ito, “Japanese Media Mixes and Amateur Cultural Exchange,” in Digital Generations: Children, Young People, and New Media, ed. David Buckingham and Rebekah Willett (Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers, 2006), 49–66
  • 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 Weekly Discussion Session

Module 10: Media, Citizenship, and the Public Sphere

  • Watch the module introduction video: Media, Citizenship, and the Public Sphere on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Stuart Cunningham, “Popular Media as Public ‘Sphericules’ for Diasporic Communities,” International Journal of Cultural Studies 4, no. 2 (June 2001): 131–47
  • Study the Review Questions for this week’s readings by Cunningham
  • Join the Weekly Discussion Session

Module 11: Media, the Nation, and Cultural Citizenship

  • Watch the module introduction video: Media, the Nation, and Cultural Citizenship on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Lauren Berlant, “The Theory of Infantile Citizenship,” Public Culture 5 (1993): 395–410
  • 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 Weekly Discussion Session

Module 12: Media and Governmentality

  • Watch the module introduction video: Media, Governmentality, and the Good Citizen on CUNY OneDrive
  • Read Laurie Ouellette and James Hay, “Makeover Television, Governmentality and the Good Citizen,” Continuum 22, no. 4 (August 2008): 471–84
  • Read Sasha Torres, “Television and Race,” in A Companion to Television, ed. Janet Wasko (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2005), 395–408
  • 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 Weekly Discussion Session

Exam 2

  • Complete Exam 2 on Microsoft Teams
  • The exam covers the material from Modules 7–12
  • There is no weekly discussion session today
  • No late exams will be accepted