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 Major Media Texts  posted by  duggu   on 12/11/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
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Henderson, Diana, CMS.796 Major Media Texts, Fall 2006. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare), (Accessed 09 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

Left: drawing of John Milton. Right: a circular Chinese artefact.





Left: John Milton, author of Paradise Lost; right: a Chinese artefact at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Milton's writing and the artefacts of the Pitt Rivers Museum are both textual inspirations featured in His Dark Materials, a three volume series by Philip Pullman that is studied in CMS.796. The circular Chinese artefact above closely resembles Pullman's alethiometer. (Left image taken from Wikipedia. Right image courtesy of Kat Selvocki.)

Course Highlights

This course features a comprehensive list of readings, films, theater performances, and other media texts in the readings section, as well as sample student papers in the assignments section.

Course Description

This class does intensive close study and analysis of historically significant media "texts" that have been considered landmarks or have sustained extensive critical and scholarly discussion. Such texts may include oral epic, story cycles, plays, novels, films, opera, television drama and digital works. The course emphasizes close reading from a variety of contextual and aesthetic perspectives. The syllabus varies each year, and may be organized around works that have launched new modes and genres, works that reflect upon their own media practices, or on stories that migrate from one medium to another. At least one of the assigned texts is collaboratively taught, and visiting lectures and discussions are a regular feature of the subject.




This subject involves intensive close study and analysis of historically significant media texts that have been considered landmarks or have sustained extensive critical and scholarly discussion.


  1. To provide sufficient exposure to various media and ways of interpreting them so that you feel comfortable analyzing, comparing, and appreciating their distinctive features (kinetic, visual, textual, and aural).
  2. To reflect in some depth upon questions of translation, adaptation, thematic analogies and functionalities across media.
  3. To explore the political, spiritual, philosophical and cultural layers in representation and performance as well as their expressive, communal and escapist functions.
  4. To recognize the importance of historical and cultural conditions in the creation and interpretation of media texts, and to consider why and how certain works remain influential across time and space.
  5. To develop a specific, shared vocabulary to help in the work of analysis.
  6. To expand your horizons of pleasure and knowledge.
  7. To pursue research and practice oral and written communication that will crystallize and convey your understanding.


This seminar will rely on lively interchange; therefore attendance and full participation are required. This means having read/viewed the assigned texts carefully and on time, having some questions and specific responses to them that you can share, and being sufficiently alert to join in an animated, probing conversation. A variety of written assignments will allow you to respond to our topics in different ways.

I will consider each of the requirements in determining your grade. If you cannot be in class or meet a deadline because of an emergency, please speak with me (in advance, if possible); otherwise, absences and late papers will adversely affect your grade.

Approximate Weighting

Class Discussions, Attendance at Events, Preparation and Active Participation 20%
Oral Presentations and Reports 20%
Comparative 10-page Essay 20%
Other Written Work 20%
Final Project, Including Presentation and Research 20%

I reserve the right to alter the weighting somewhat in exceptional circumstances; usually this works to your advantage. If written work is incomplete or attendance is infrequent, you will not pass the course.


Plagiarism - the use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement - is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution consult the style guides available in the MIT Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism.

In addition to welcoming your participation in class, I encourage you to discuss your ideas and your writing with me during office hours, or at other times convenient for us both. I also encourage you to share thoughts with the group via email.


Challenges in Representation: War, the State, the Past, the Other
1 Introductions: Textual Analysis Using Dickinson and Shakespeare   Self-assessment: where you are starting from, plus the questionnaire
2 Discussion of Henry V: Text, Image, and Performance    
3 Discussion of Henry V: Film, Contexts

Patterson, Annabel. "Back by Popular Demand."

Peter Donaldson, from Shakespearean Films/Shakespearean Directors.

4 Discussion of Othello    
5 Othello and Cross-medial, Cross-temporal Adaptation Dawson, Anthony. "Performance and Participation: Desdemona, Foucault, and the Actor's Body." 3-page close reading due
6 Discussion of The Island

Wilder, Dennis. "Athol Fugard." Introduction.

Wertheim, Albert. "'Acting' Against Apartheid."

7 Discuss Theatre; Reports    
8 Reports and Reflections    
9 "Joebell and America"   3-page annotated bibliography due
Challenges in Representation: Mad Science, Imagined Worlds
10 Frankenstein    
11 Frankenstein (cont.)

Hoeveler, Diane Long. "Frankenstein: Feminism and Literary Theory."

Levine, George. The Ambiguous Heritage of Frankenstein.

Clayton, Jay. "Frankenstein's Futurity: Replicants and Robots."

12 Discussion of the Epic and the Sublime   Midterm meditation, including textual citations and self-reflection: 5 pages maximum
13 His Dark Materials    
14 British Radio/Recorded Comedy   Comparative essay précis due (one page)

Comedy and Fantasy

His Dark Materials (cont.)

DiBattista, Maria. "Female Rampant: His Girl Friday."  
16 His Dark Materials (cont.)    
17 The Musical, Dance, Song    
Challenges in Representation: Love and The World Unraveling
18 Attend Prof. Edward Turk's Class for Further Discussion with Rambert and Moran   10-page comparative close analysis essay due
19 A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters    
20 A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters (cont.)    
21 Possible Guest Speaker    
22 Gericault, Paintings    
23 My Son, the Fanatic   Final project presentations
24 My Son, the Fanatic (cont.)   Final project presentations
25 "After great pain," Where are We?    

"The Blank Page"


  Self-assesssment: where you have arrived (4 pages maximum)   Tell A Friend