Friday, December 13, 2013

Photography, radio, and television

Tis the season... to grade.  But while the pile of essays to grade grows higher and higher, I've been distracting myself by planning for my next semester courses. I am thinking of pulling a dramatic audible and restructuring the assignments for the second half of my survey course.  And I'd like to do so around the topic of changes in media.

Rice, where I am teaching, structures its surveys a little oddly.  The cut off point is not 1877 or 1865, but rather 1848.  As an early Americanist, I love it, but as someone struggling to pace an 1848 - present course, this unique structure poses a particular challenge.  I've taken Joseph Moore's challenge seriously, however, and I'm determined to stay disciplined with the course schedule.

I would like to begin the course with an exploration of photography.  I'm inclined to use Debra Willis and Barbara Krauthamer's Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery, but I'm also tempted to use Erroll Morris's really fun five part 2009 New York Times series "Whose Father Was He?"  What have you used to teach photography during the mid to late nineteenth century?

Our second unit will focus on radio.  I plan to immerse myself in the amazing collections available through the Internet Archive's Old Time Radio series.  Amos and Andy episodes, Father Coughlin, and FDR's Pearl Harbor address will all certainly make the cut, and I may even have my students listen to an entire recording of a 1920s baseball game.

Finally, we will evaluate the introduction of television.  Youtube is tremendous here.  I am going to create playlist that includes both news broadcasts, sitcom episodes, and a heavy dose of advertisements.

As you can see, I am still in the early stages of planning, so this post is more self-serving than educational.  How have you used late nineteenth century photography, early twentieth century radio, or late twentieth century television in your courses?  Have you assigned secondary works to help contextualize these sources?

I greatly look forward to tackling this new challenge and working with a great group of students in evaluating how media has shaped and reflected the changes in American life and culture since 1848.

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