American Studies | Us & Media: Experimental Media & the Culture Industries in the US
A202 | 9275 | Benedetti


At least since Thomas Paine's "Common Sense," media in the United
States have been used for oppositional, resistant, alternative,
experimental, and other "non-mainstream" purposes. In the 20th
century, with the emergence of cinema, television, and digital media,
the divide between these forms, between the mainstream and the
alternative, has grown wider and sharper. From public access
television to experimental films to hip hop, media in 20th century
America have often been mobilized in explicit opposition to dominant
cultural, social, and political ideas and power structures. Such
media provide a powerful, pure, and uncorrupted corrective to power
run amok.

Or do they? This course examines a variety of
experimental/alternative media forms in their opposition and close
relation to the industries, such as Hollywood and the record
industry, that produce and market popular culture to the masses. We
will discuss how media are mobilized against entrenched power
structures and what happens when those mobilizations come up against
the demands and requirements of liberal capitalism. We will consider
these relationships through three broad frameworks: (1) modes of
production, (2) contexts of dissemination and reception, and (3)
discursive struggles over the concept of difference. We will give
particular attention to the the notions of exploration, "American
exceptionalism" and "rugged individualism" in 20th century culture,
as well as the importance of discourses of taste to the establishment
and effacement of difference. The course will focus on a number
of "artistic" media formations, such as the Black Arts Movement, pop
art, and hip hop. with a particular emphasis on punk rock and
experimental cinema.