Media Seductions:

Influence Theory from Plato to Battlefield 2

Elizabeth Losh

Lectures are Tu/Th 2-3:20 PM in Ledden Auditorium


Contact: lizlosh (at) ucsd (dot) edu

Office Hours: Tu/Th 11:30-12:30 249 Pepper Canyon Hall

Q&A Sessions about Writing Assignments: 10/9 6PM and 11/20 6PM in the Dogg House

Q&A Session about Readings Mid-Quarter 11/13 6PM in the Smart Classroom

Review Session for the Final Examination:12/9 6PM in the Dogg House


Course Description

In the fifth century B.C.E. the Greek philosopher Plato warned that seemingly positive innovations that allowed human beings to represent, record, and communicate their experiences in new ways might have unexpected negative consequences.  He cautioned that the “new media” of ancient Athens might corrupt the young with images of sex and violence, dumb down popular culture into a state of amnesia, foster the moral deception of a gullible citizenry, and encourage blasphemous behavior that would destabilize society.  In the millennia since Plato, we have seen moral panics about paintings, novels, plays, newspapers, photographs, films, comic books, television shows, videogames, and social network sites that have galvanized public opinion, spurred policy-making decisions, and fostered philosophical reflection and scientific inquiry. This course on the culture, art, and technology of media influence looks at many kinds of texts that have been associated with powerful forms of persuasion – both in the present and in the past.  Such new media have been credited with ending slavery and colonialism, but they have also been blamed for murderous obedience to totalitarian leaders and violent martyrdom in the name of global jihad.

Required Texts

Austen, Jane. 2004. Northanger Abbey: A Longman Cultural Edition. Pearson Education, Inc./Longman.
Carr, Nicholas. 2010. The shallows: what the Internet is doing to our brains. New York: W.W. Norton.
Mccloud, Scott. 1994. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Harper Paperbacks.
Richards, Jeffrey. 1997. Early American drama. New York: Penguin Books (not as necessary as the others, because a good hypertext is available online)
Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others. Picador, 2004.

Materials on Electronic Reserves(password protected!)


20%: Assignment 1 (Summarizing: Providing an overview of a chapter from Carr) and Grading Rubric

10%: Library Assignment (Explication: Analyzing details of an object in the Dr. Seuss Collection) and Grading Rubric

30%: Assignment 2 (Curation: Integrating multiple sources about the comic book panic) and Grading Rubric

25%: Final Examination

15%: Class Participation (although numerically participation accounts for a minor percentage of your grade, failure to participate is grounds for failure in the class; participation includes attending lectures and discussion section and avoiding lateness)


Week 0: Introduction

10/2 Tuesday

Reading: The Syllabus!

Opening song: "Rasputin" by Boney M.

Closing song: "Technologic" by Daft Punk


Week 1: The Internet

10/7 Tuesday

Reading: Reading: The Shallows 1-2

Bonus Case Study: V.S. Ramachandran of the Center for Brain and Cognition

Opening song: "Hypnotize" by System of a Down

10/9 Thursday:

Reading: The Shallows 3-4

Opening song: "Computer World" by Kraftwerk


Week 2: Culture, Art, and Technology

Smart Classroom Exercise

10/14 Tuesday:

Reading: The Shallows 7-10 (Slides for Lecture 4)

Opening song: "I Hate My Frickin I.S.P." by Todd Rundgren

10/16 Thursday: No Class, Sections Meet


Week 3: Theatre

10/21 Tuesday

Mimesis and Catharsis

Required Reading: Plato Phaedrus (257c-279c) and Aristotle Poetics (1448a-1454a)

Optional Reading: Plato Republic (2.377a-379e, 3.387a-392c, 7.514a-7.518d, and 10.595a-10.603e) and Aristotle Rhetoric Book I, Chapter 2)

Opening song: "Kids with Guns" by the Gorillaz

Ideas Draft of Assignment 1 Due!

10/23 Thursday: No Class, Sections Meet


Week 4: Novels

10/28 Tuesday: Reading the text as satire: Bath and reading practices in contemporary England

Reading: Volume I (pages 1-102) in the Longman Cultural Edition) of Northanger Abbey.

Opening song: "Rage over a Lost Penny" by The Jane Austen Era

Opening Song: "I Died So I Could Haunt You" by Stars

Working Draft of Assignment 1 Due!

10/30 Thursday:Reading the text as parody; gothic novels

Reading: Volume II (pages 102-198) in the Longman Cultural Edition) of Northanger Abbey.

Opening song: "Gothic Vimperg" by Novel 23

Closing Song: "My Wife and My Dead Wife" by Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians


Week 5: Visual Culture and Persuasion

11/4 Tuesday: Political Cartoons

Reading: Dr. Seuss Went to War

Opening song: "Kodachrome" by Paul Simon

11/6 Thursday: Plays, Popular Songs, and Melodrama in the story of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Slides for Lecture 10 and Podcast for Lecture 10)

Reading: George Aiken, Uncle Tom's Cabin

Opening Song: "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy

Assignment 1 due!


Week 6: Photography

11/11 Tuesday: No Class

11/13 Thursday Photography and the Spanish Civil War

Reading: Ch 1-4 of Regarding the Pain of Others and Shots of War: Photojournalism During the Spanish Civil War

Bonus Case Study: Luis Martin-Cabrera of the Department of Literature and the Spanish Civil War Memory Project

Opening Song: "Spanish Bombs" by The Clash

Closing Song: "Jarama Valley" by Woody Guthrie


Week 7: Democracy and Human Rights

11/18 Tuesday: Media and Human Rights

Reading: Ch 5-9 of Regarding the Pain of Others

Bonus Case Study: Sam Gregory of WITNESS

Opening Song: "Strange Fruit" by Billie Holiday

Pick up German Identities in Lecture! Don't Miss Class!

11/20 Thursday:Media and the Nazi Racial State: Degenerate Art and Patriotic Melodrama

Viewing: Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Süss

Viewing: Degenerate Art

Opening song: "Springtime for Hitler" from The Producers

Closing song: Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera): Act II Finale [Trenk-Trebitsch] by Berliner Staatsoper Orchester, Bertolt Brecht, Lotte Lenya & Otto Klemperer

Library Assignment Due!


Week 8: Comics

11/25 Tuesday: From Hot Media to Cool Media: Horror Comics of the Fifties

Viewing: Confidential File

Reading:the Testimony of William Gaines and Frederic Wertham, and materials from Four Color Fear: forgotten horror comics of the 1950s and The Horror: comic books the government didn't want you to read on TED

Opening song: "Midnight Stroll" by the Revels

Closing Song: "Dancing in the Moonlight" by Toploader

11/27 Thursday: Thanksgiving! No Class!


Week 9: Comics Continued

12/1 Tuesday: The Comics Code and Underground Comics

Reading: Understanding Comics and exploration of Underground & Independent Comics, Comix, and Graphic Novels

Opening song: "In the Garage" by Weezer

Closing Song: "Comic Book Love" by Allegra

Ideas Draft of Assignment 2 Due!

12/3 Thursday A Clockwork Orange

Viewing: A Clockwork Orange

Working Draft of Assignment 2 Due!

Opening Song: Theme from A Clockwork Orange (based on Henry Purcell's Funeral Music for Queen Mary) by The Starshine Orchestra/Singers

Closing Song: A Clockwork Orange (based on Beethoven's Finale 9th Symphony) by the London Philharmonic Orchestra

Bonus Track: "Alex Descends Into Hell for a Bottle of Milk Korova" by U2

Week 10: Videogames

12/8 Tuesday The Contemporary Debate about Videogames

Opening Song: "Video Games" by Lana Del Rey

Closing Song: "Bored of Everything" by Ellegarden

12/10: Thursday Final Review


Monday of Examination Week: Final Draft of Assignment 2 Due in the CAT Offices by 12 Noon!

Final Examination

Enjoy the Boney M. Christmas Album over Winter Break!