Communication and Culture | Topics in Media History
C420 | 1161 | Klinger

Since the beginning of cinema in the U.S., films have acted as
important registers of major cultural and historical developments.
Films have reflected, distorted, or otherwise mediated significant
historical events in this country, o`ffering their audiences
particular ways of understanding and responding to changes in American
culture. In this course we will survey the relationship between
Hollywood and American history in the twentieth century.

We begin with the nickelodeon era when films were shown in storefront
theaters to a largely urban, immigrant audience, discussing the impact
that films as a form of public entertainment had on the
Americanization of this audience. We then continue to consider some of
the major events in the twentieth-century, including the Great
Depression, World War II, McCarthyism and the Red Scare, the Civil
Rights movement, the counter-cultural '60s, Vietnam, and the
"hardbody" hero of the Reagan years, in relation to films that vividly
embodied or addressed the issues raised by these transformative
moments in the nation's history. We will view a variety of film genres
produced during these different decades, such as gangster films,
musicals, and Frank Capra comedies (1930s), war films and films noir
(1940), science fiction films and race films (1950s), liberal dramas
and vigilante films (1960s), blaxploitation and women's films (1970s),
and Vietnam war and blockbuster action films (1980s-90s). Through this
historical survey, we will see how Hollywood has responded to
momentous changes in American culture and examine the place that
movies have in presenting and mediating these changes for their

There will be three exams in this course, including the final.