21G.221 | Spring 2019 | Undergraduate

Communicating in American Culture(s)

Topics to Guide Reading and Discussion

Communicating in America: TV Shows as Cultural Vectors

Study the materials and be prepared to contribute in an informed discussion of the following topics and questions:

  1. You have read Martha Bayles’s analysis of what makes American music “American.” What values does she claim modem American TV shows communicate to the world?
    • Which of the American TV shows she cites are you familiar with? Do you agree with her characterization of these shows?
    • Can you add any other TV shows to her list?
    • Why does she think these cultural exports can be problematic?
  2. What does the “Late Night TV Talk Show” model, e.g., Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and Trevor Noah, communicate to the world about American culture?
  3. In the New York Times, Josh Katz maps watching trends across geographic regions in the US via 50 TV shows. What does he discover?
    • What is the relation between American geography/history/values and these TV trends? Be prepared to explain the relationships by referring to the various materials we have explored, e.g., Woodard’s American Nations.

Oral Response #2: Conduct an informal interview of approximately 10 of your friends and acquaintances about their TV watching habits. Design and ask them three or four questions that are informed by the materials you have studied for class. Is the “survey data” from these informal interviews supportive, contradictory, or distinct from the main themes developed in the assigned materials?

Prepare to describe your survey and results in a well-organized two-minute presentation. I will videotape these nano-presentations and send each of you a private link so you can watch and complete a self-assessment.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2019