MCMA530-fa14 Historical Research Methods in Media


Dr. Michele Leigh Office: COMM 1121L Mail Box: Cinema & Photography officeEmail: Office Hours:   Tues 11-3, Thurs 12-2pm Class Meeting Times:August 19 – December 2, 2014Tue3:15-5:45 pm COMM 2216


Required Texts:

A Short Guide to Writing About History, by Richard A. Marius, Longman, 2010, 7th ed.

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, Little, Brown & Company, 2005 (kindle edition available)


COURSE READERALL other readings will be posted here. You should either print out each reading or take careful notes. You should always bring your print outs or notes with you to class.


COURSE DESCRIPTION:  This course is designed to introduce graduate students to the range of approaches, theories and methodologies of historical inquiry. We will explore a variety of ways in which history and more specifically, the history of media, has been imagined, written and rewritten over the last century. We will examine a variety of avenues for historical research in media, ranging from industrial practices, technological evolution, and cultural consumption to issues of race, gender and sexuality in history. Students will learn to analyze the various historical approaches, which in the end will help them to establish their own approach to media history. Students will also be introduced to primary and archival research as a way to establish a methodology for collecting, archiving and writing history.


This course will provide students with:

* an understanding of the main trajectories of media history

* the tools for evaluating primary and secondary sources

* the ability to critique their own and other’s conceptualizations of history

* a solid foundation for conducting their own historical endeavors

EXPECTATIONS:  Students are expected to attend class sessions and participate in class discussions. Active participation means prior reading of assigned materials and sharing of relevant thoughts and experiences both in class and on-line. You must check your email and our class webpage regularly for announcements. Students are encouraged to bring to class or post examples of alternative media from a variety of sources to further class discussions on our class webpage.

If you miss a class it is YOUR responsibility to get notes or materials from a classmate. Assignments are due as indicated on the course calendar. All assignments must be turned in prior to the beginning of class. Assignments turned in during or after class will be considered late. Late assignments will lose 10 points for each day they are late. ALL assignments MUST be turned in, regardless of how late they are. Failure to turn in an assignment will result in an F for the course.


Class Presentation and Discussion Leadership – Throughout this course you will be required to give two types of presentations. You will each have to choose two days where you will be asked to lead discussion on the readings for that day. Discussion leaders are responsible for posing questions for discussion and should be prepared to lead discussion for at least 45 minutes. In essence you will be teaching the class that day and should plan your presentation accordingly. You will also have to give a presentation on a book that you are reading as part of your research paper. Presentations should be about 20 minutes in length. This presentation will consist of a summary and critique of the book selected. Your presentations should be accompanied by visual examples, which help to illustrate a practical application of the reading you are presenting.

Online Journal Postings – each week you must post questions or comments on at least two of the readings for class on our class website. These comments should be at least two paragraphs in length and should include a summary your impression of the author’s approach to history. You should consider the author’s approach to the topic, their intent, what does it add to the topic, what is left out, and is the piece successful? I also want you to write 1-2 paragraphs discussing the applicability of the readings to your own project. You are also required to interact with your fellow classmates in your postings. Your questions/comments MUST be posted by 11 am on the day of class (posts made after 11 am will be considered late and will be downgraded).

 Historical Research Papers – Over the course of the semester you will be asked to write a historically situated research paper. Your paper should make an original contribution to scholarship, drawing from and developing the historical approaches discussed in class. I encourage you to write on something related to your dissertation or Master’s Thesis, if at all possible. Ideally, your paper should include some type of primary research. The papers should be 15-30 pages and be properly cited using the MLA style guide. As part of this assignment, you will be required to complete various steps, each of which you will turn in with the completed paper. You will also be required to present your research to the class in a 20 minute presentation.

 Archival/Research Assignments – During the course of the semester you will complete two assignments where you will be asked to conduct some kind of archival research. The first project is a microfilm project, te second will be to explore the University Archives.


Grades Breakdown
Class Presentations 2 presentations 10% each 90-100 A
Online Postings 10% 80-89 B
Participation 5% 70-79 C
Historical Research 60% 60-69 D
Research question & survey of evidence 5% Below 59 F
Research Proposal 5%
Annotated Bibliography 10%
Research Paper 30%
Presentation of Paper 10%
Archival Assignments 2 assignments 5% each
Total Points 100

ATTENDANCE IS MANDATORY! Keep in mind you are here to learn and get an education and you can’t do that if you don’t attend class. Missing more than 2 classes throughout the semester due to unexcused absences WILL result in a lower course grade. If you know ahead of time that you will be missing a class, please let me know.

*All readings are subject to change, make sure you double check before doing the reading each week

Week 1 – August 19    Intro: History and Historiography

Reading: Excerpt from The Writing of History; excerpt from Working in the Archives;       VICKI CALLAHAN article; A Short Guide to Writing About History

Supplemental Reading: In other Words

Week 2 – August 26    The Nature of History

Readings: Nature and Interpretation of History; Nature of HistoryPerspectives on Mass Communication; Excerpt from Historical Theory

Week 3 – September 2   The Challenge of Media History

Archival Project #1: Microfilm Project Due

Readings: Historicizing Media in Transition; Problem of Journalism History; Early American Film as a Challenge to History;Social History of Media; Excerpt from History and Material Culture

 Week 4 –   September 9    Gender in Media History

Readings: Gender and History; Intro to Feminist Reader; Hour of the Cuckoo; Changing History: Comic book masculinityExcerpt HH

Week 5 –  September 16   Manifestos for Historical Research

Research Question and Survey of Available Evidence Due

ReadingsHistory writing as critique; maifesto for a history of the media;  alternate worlds; Excerpt WIAHistorian CSI

Week 6 – September 23    Print Media in History

Readings: Trade News; How Media Became New ; Black Pressneglected news

Week 7September 30 Broadcast History

Readings: Social Const Broadcasting; Black RadioExcerpt Cultural Hist Radio;

Week 8 – October 7   Broadcast History

Developed Research Proposal Due

ReadingsUnder one Nation; Main Street and Disneyland; excerpt Groove TubeRALPH_FRED_ARCHIE_AND_HOMER

Week 9 – October 14   NO CLASS – Fall Break

Week 10 – October 21Film History

Readings: Nazimovas veils; Manhattan nickelodeonsBefore she was a Virgincinema and wireless

Supplemental ReadingVaudeville

Week 11 – October 28 The Audience in Media History

Readings: Installing the TV set;  Excerpt MAKING_OF_AMERICAN_AUDIENCE;  Counting the house

Week 12 – November 4   History of Industrial Practice

Archival Project #2:   University Archive Due

ReadingsFIFTIES_TELEVISIONRuthless Criticism; Selling America;

Week 13 – November 11 NO CLASS – Veteren’s Day

Week 14 – November 18   History and Technology

Annotated Bibliography Due

Readings: Off the Record ; color of nitrate; Masters of DoomVIDEO_GAME_EXPLOSION

Week 15 – Nov 25 History of New Media in the Digital Age

ReadingsIntroduction Media and New Media; “How Media Became New”;Dialing up the past & Geo-storytelling

Week 16December 2 Research Paper Presentations



December 11    2:00pm Research Papers Due & Remaining Paper Presentations

(anything received after 2:10pm will be considered late)



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