Share Course Ware
Social Studies > Journalism > Expository Writing: Analyzing Mass Media
 Expository Writing: Analyzing Mass Media  posted by  duggu   on 12/9/2007  Add Courseware to favorites Add To Favorites  
Further Reading
More Options

Walsh, Andrea, 21W.730-4 Expository Writing: Analyzing Mass Media, Spring 2001. (Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare),  (Accessed 10 Jul, 2010). License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA

An advertisement for Egyptian Deities.

An advertisement for "Egyptian Deities" cigarettes shows a woman holding a package of cigarettes, c. 1900. (Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [reproduction number, LC-USZ62-102351 (b&w film copy neg.)].)

Course Highlights

This course features extensive examples of course writing assignments and supporting study materials.

Course Description

This course focuses on developing and refining the skills that will you need to express your voice more effectively as an academic writer. As a focus for our writing this semester, this course explores what it means to live in the age of mass media. We will debate the power of popular American media in shaping our ideas of self, family and community and in defining social issues. Throughout the semester, students will focus on writing as a process of drafting and revising to create essays that are lively, clear, engaging and meaningful to a wider audience.



Course Description

"Becoming a writer is about becoming conscious"- Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life.

"Revision is not the end of the writing process but the beginning"- Donald Murray, The Art of Revision.

This course focuses on developing and refining the skills that will you need to express your voice more effectively as an academic writer. To this end, we'll think about writing as an act of self-discovery, as an act of critical thinking, and as an act of communicating with an audience. Throughout the semester, students will focus on writing as a process of drafting and revising to create essays that are lively, clear, engaging and meaningful to a wider audience.

As a focus for our writing this semester, this course explores what it means to live in the age of mass media. Focusing primarily on American visual media, we address questions such as: To what extent does television viewing erode critical intelligence and threaten democracy or challenge our minds and inspire political awareness and participation? How do the air-brushed supermodels and commodity-rich lifestyles of contemporary advertising influence our identities as spectators and citizens, producers and consumers, women and men? In what ways do popular media represent the experiences of different gender, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups? How has the "Internet Revolution" changed our lives; what does it portend for the future? Throughout the semester we will debate the power of popular American media in shaping our ideas of self, family and community and in defining social issues.

Assigned essays will enable students to sharpen their skills in evaluating arguments, closely analyzing visual texts such as advertisements and films, and interpreting interviews on growing up in the media age. Readings include interdisciplinary selections from the fields of media and cultural studies, anthropology, sociology, history, Afro-American studies, gender studies and literature.

This course is divided into three conceptual units that address central issues in media studies and enable students to develop significantly as academic writers. Within each unit, you will write a different type of essay. These essays, as well as other writing exercises in your reader/writer notebook, are at the center of the course. Each essay will focus on a particular analytic task, and will build upon the skills of the previous essay(s). Over the course of the semester, you will revise a draft of each essay. Through the process of drafting and revising, you will have the opportunity to develop and refine the skills that you will need to express your voice more effectively as an academic writer. In each unit, reading assignments and preliminary writing exercises will prepare you for the kind of essay that you will be writing.

Course Requirements

Class Participation and Attendance

To foster a sense of intellectual community, this course is structured as a seminar. Throughout the term we will be discussing the work of professional, as well as student, writers. It is crucial that you come to class prepared to offer thoughtful comments on assigned readings as well as helpful feedback on your peers' writing. A vital, ongoing intellectual conversation - about our writing and that of scholars - is the heart of the course.

To be effective as a seminar participant, you will need to complete reading and writing tasks by their assigned date. Please arrive at class on time and bring assigned texts with you.

Since our class functions as a writing community, it is essential that you attend class faithfully. If you have more than two unexcused absences, it may affect your final grade. Under Writing Program policy, you cannot pass the course if you have more than five unexcused absences. Three latenesses counts as an absence. If you are absent because of a family or medical emergency, please contact me as soon as possible.

Essay Assignments and Grading

Over the course of the semester, you will write at least three essays, each with a different analytic focus. Each essay will be submitted first, in draft form, and later, in a revised version. In reviewing your drafts, I will make extensive comments and suggest some options in revision. I am also available to meet with you to discuss your drafts and revised essays. Only the revision of each essay is graded. Pre-draft exercises will be acknowledged with a check and brief comments.

It is important that you submit work on the due date; one extension per student will be granted over the course of the term, if needed for an emergency.

To pass the course, all required work must be submitted. Your final grade will reflect the quality of your revised essays, the thoughtfulness of your reader/writer notebook, your oral presentation, your attendance and preparation for class, and your contribution as a reader for your peers. Class attendance and participation count for about 20% of your final grade. If you receive a B- or above in this course, you will have passed Phase I of the Writing requirement. However, if your grade for the course is C, there will be a case-by-case review of whether or not you have passed Phase 1. Receiving a grade below a C means that you have not passed Phase I.

Writing Objectives

In writing your essays, I will encourage you to:

  • address an intelligent, public audience, in a graceful style, providing key information necessary to understand your argument;
  • develop your ideas in an interesting, original and coherent manner;
  • support your arguments with evidence and use sources thoughtfully and appropriately;
  • express yourself in clear, concise language that uses the conventions of grammar, punctuation, word usage and source citation;
  • structure your argument carefully with clear introductions, transitions, middle and conclusion;
  • title your work in a thoughtful and entertaining fashion.

Manuscript Form

Essays (drafts and final versions) should be typewritten, double-spaced, on one side of white paper, with margins of about an inch all around. In the upper right-hand corner of the first page, type your name, course title, my name, the date and the number and type of assignment (e.g. Draft, Essay #1, Revision, Essay #3), single-spaced. Your title should be typed in upper case letters , centered and placed about two double spaces beneath this block of information. The first paragraph should begin about two double spaces below the title. Please number your pages! Each essay should be submitted with two copies and a letter to me.


Over the course of the semester, I am available to meet with you in conferences to discuss your essays and strategies for improving your writing. My role is as a writing coach, to offer feedback and suggest options to you as a writer, as you make decisions about how to revise your work. Conferences offer a rich opportunity to extend the conversations of the seminar about strategies for successful academic writing. You should come well prepared to conferences to discuss your strategies for a particular essay or type of writing. You may find it helpful to see me in conference at the pre-writing stage, at the stage between draft and revision, or at the midterm point to discuss your progress for the course and your goals for the rest of the term. You can schedule conferences with me in class or through email. Two conferences are required for the semester.

Writing Center

The Writing and Communication Center, also offers consultations on student writing. You may visit the Writing Center at any point in the writing process: prewriting, drafting or revising a piece of writing. In addition, The Writing and Communication Center offers advice on preparing oral presentations. It's best to schedule an appointment by calling the Center. For further information, consult MIT's Writing and Communication Center.

Writing Portfolio

Please keep all of your essays, draft and revised versions of essays and my comments together in a writing portfolio. At the end of the semester, with your final essay(s), you will submit your portfolio, together with final letters, in which you will reflect on the themes in your writing, the ways in which your writing process and style have changed throughout the course of the semester and your plans for the future. Please note: your writing portfolio should be kept separately (in a binder with pockets or ring notebook) from your other material for class.


Lec # Topics key dates
Unit One: First Essay - Writing Focus: Living In the Age of the Image; Close Textual Reading
1 Introduction to the Class as a Writing Community And to the Academic Study of Mass Media Distribute writer's letter assignment

Distribute reader/writer notebook assignment
2 Image Culture and Media Artifacts

Advertising, Media Literacy and Close Reading

Discussion: Notebook Assignment
Distribute essay 1

Distribute exercise 1.1

Distribute "Reading Print Advertisements" Handout

Writer's letter due
3 Writing as Process: Prewriting, Drafting, Revising Advertising: A Case Study of Mass Media Exercise 1.1 due: small groups
4 Strategies of Close Reading: Ads as Representative Texts: Finding Patterns  
5 Strategies of Close Reading: Constructing Arguments About Advertising Texts

Living in Consumer Culture Theories of Social Control and Social Reflection
Essay 1 introduction due (3 copies)

Small group workshops: introductions due

Essay 1 draft due one day after Lec 5
6 Writing Workshop: Peer Review of Drafts  
7 Using Secondary Sources: Library Workshop Description of choice of interview subject by email to the instructor
Unit Two: Second Essay - Writing Focus: Working with Primary and Secondary Sources; Crafting Individual and Group Identities in the Age of Mass Media and Consumer Culture
8 The Individual in the TV Age: Working With Primary Source Data: Interviews, Letters, etc.

The Art of Interviewing
Essay 1 revision due (2 copies with revision cover letter)
9 The Individual in the Media Age: Growing Up on TV (cont.) Distribute essay 2

Distribute exercise 2.1

Notebook assignment due
10 The Individual in the Media Age: The Interview Transcript as Primary Source

Identifying Key Passages
Exercise 2.1 due: small groups

Prewriting strategies due
11 The Individual in the Age of Television and Mass Media: Interpreting Interview Material Within the Context of Secondary Sources  
12 The Individual in the "Digital Revolution"

Discuss: Assigned Readings

Managing and Citing Sources

Issues of Structure

Bookending: Intros and Conclusion
13 Generating Hypotheses from Case Studies: From Individual Lives to Social Patterns

Hypothesis Exercise

Television Analyses
Essay 2 draft due
14 Workshop, Draft, Essay 2  
Unit Three: Writing Focus: Comparative Analysis: Print Into Film
15 From Print to Film: Thinking Critically About the Potentialities of Different Media for Storytelling

Literature, Film and the Depiction of Madness
16 From Print to Film: Questions of Comparative Analysis

Discuss: Susanna Kaysen. Girl, Interrupted
Distribute "Reading Films Critically" Handout

Distribute essay 3 assignment sheet

Distribute exercise 3.1

Essay 2 revision due
17 Film Showing: Girl, Interrupted (James Mangold, 1999)  
18 From Print to Film

Discuss: Novel and Film, Girl, Interrupted
Exercise 3.1 due: small groups
19 Writing About Film

Film as Language

Discuss: "Reading Films Critically"
20 Incorporating Secondary Sources on Film and Print-to-film Adaptation

Types of Writing About Film

Small Groups: Scene Analysis Exercise
Essay 3 draft due one day after Lec 20 (2 copies)
21 Workshop: Draft, Essay 3

Revision Strategies
22 Advanced Revision: The Potential of Publication

Discuss: Assigned Readings
23 Course Evaluations

Portfolio Preparation
24 Advanced Revision Workshop: Essay 1, Essay 2  
25 Student Readings

Course Overview
26 Final Class

Student Readings

Submission of Portfolios
Essay 3 revision due (with final portfolio)   Tell A Friend