A couple years ago in graduate school at the University of Maryland, I took a course on history and contemporary theory. It was pretty much a combination of philosophy, historical theory, and historiography. A difficult class, but I certainly learned a lot.
One of the projects in the class, as I can remember it, was to design a lecture for undergraduate students about one aspect of historical theory and create an accompanying book list for reading. Given my interest in popular culture and business history, I decided to talk about the “Culture Industry” a theory that came from Frankfurt School historians/theorists in the mid 20th century (see also my blog post on War of the Worlds for more on this theory). I wasn’t able to give this lecture to an actual group of students, but I did film it and post it on Youtube.
A few people commented on the video saying that they’d like to see the slides, so here is a link to my power point: The Culture Industry_presentation.
If you’re interested in learning more, this is my recommended Culture Industry reading list, complete with a variety of primary and secondary sources that explore the commodification of leisure and entertainment from a variety of angles.
The Mass Ornament (1927)- Siegfried Kracauer (Published in The Wiemar Essays, 1995)
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1936)- Walter Benjamin
The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1947)- Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno
Mass Communication, Popular Taste and Organized Social Action (1948)- Robert Merton and Paul Lazersfeldt
Free Time (1969)- Theodor Adorno
Estranged Labor (1844)- Karl Marx
Radio: An Art of Sound (1936)- Rudolph Arnheim
Babel and Babylon (1994)- Miriam Hansen
Prosthetic Memory (2004)- Alison Landsberg
Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 (2007)- Wolfgang Schivelbusch
Cinema and Experience: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno (Weimar and Now: German Cultural Criticism) (2011)- Miriam Hansen
Sources for Further Exploration:
Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show (1902)
All’s Fair at the Fair (1936)
Modern Times (1936)
Blade Runner (1982)
War of the Worlds Radio Broadcast by Orson Welles (1938)
“True Loveliness Demands…”- Palmolive (1942)
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