Media, Work and Culture in 20th-Century America

Instructors: Paul Adler and Jordan Brower
Meeting time: Monday, 1-4
Syllabus: Canvas site

The story of American culture has largely been a story about work: who gets to do it and who has to do it; who gets paid and how much; who gets what they deserve, and who determines that. When we occupy Wall Street and shutter Main Street, when we congratulate or criticize a kneeling athlete, when we lean in (or don’t), we are talking about work. Shifts in economy, sociality, ethics, and aesthetics often find their most vivid expressions when refracted through the prism of how we think about earning a living. In this course, we will follow four industries – manufacturing, media, military, and service – as they transform alongside and in response to American culture in the long twentieth century. Texts of various kinds – from Chaplin's Modern Times to CBS's Undercover Boss, from Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts to HBO's Silicon Valley, from the National Labor Relations Act to MGM's annual reports – will serve as both our guides and our interlocutors.