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Topics in Contemporary American Literature

ENGL 285.601
T 4:30-7:10

"Keepers of the Public Trust," "Sensationalistic Vipers," "King-Makers," "Defenders of the First Amendment," "Nattering Nabobs of Negativism": during the past several decades, the U.S. news media have been characterized--positively or negatively--in increasingly dramatic, literary terms as journalism has become a more fully developed and self-conscious narrative form. Celebrated and condemned by politicians and the public alike, the news media have helped generate the subject matter for an increasing number of literary works, and have pushed the boundaries between "non-fiction" and "fiction," between "news" and "entertainment." The media have also come to be seen as an indicator of the nation's moral health and character, a role once reserved for the national literature.
This seminar will investigate the varying relationship between the news media and public life in the U.S. since World War II. The course will draw on a variety of sources including case studies, dramatic and documentary films, literary works, television shows, advertisements, scholarly essays and historical texts. The course will introduce students to a multi-disciplinary range of methods, and will focus on a series of historical and theoretical topics including: the development of the notion of objectivity; the question of what constitutes "news"; the "new journalism" of the 1960s and '70s; First Amendment cases; government censorship; the heroic image of the journalist; the rise of anti-media sentiment; and the increase in monopoly ownership of the media. Students will adopt clear theoretical positions and defend them in class and in written papers. The course is intended for students with specific interest in the subject matter. Enrollment is limited, and preference will be given to students pursuing concentrations in their majors.