Understanding Television

Cartoon image of professor at blackboard: 'Lucy 101.'

A cartoon drawing of Professor Thorburn teaching 21L.432. (Image courtesy of Lilly Kam.)


MIT Course Number


As Taught In

Spring 2003



Translated Versions


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Course Features

Course Highlights

This course features exemplary video. The viewing list of representative programs distills a mini-history of prime time TV.

Course Description

The subtitle of this course for the spring 2003 term is "American Television: A Cultural History." The class takes a cultural approach to television's evolution as a technology and system of representation, considering television as a system of storytelling and myth-making, and as a cultural practice, studied from anthropological, literary, and cinematic perspectives. The course focuses on prime-time commercial broadcasting, the medium's technological and economic history, and theoretical perspectives. There is much required viewing as well as readings in media theory and cultural interpretation.

David Thorburn. 21L.432 Understanding Television, Spring 2003. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), http://ocw.mit.edu (Accessed). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

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