Re-presenting Los Angeles and the American City in Media

Course Title: Re-presenting Los Angeles and the American City in Media
Dr. Leo Zonn

Semester: winter or summer semester 2010/11
The University of Texas at Austin, Fulbright Visitor
Course Title: Re-presenting Los Angeles and the American City in Media
Eligible Students: Graduate, Elective Course
ECTS credits: 6

Course Description: The purpose of this course is to examine representations of Los Angeles in the media of popular culture, with an emphasis upon race, ethnicity, gender, and the ways in which Los Angeles represents the ‘post-modern city’ in a globalizing world of increasingly intense interactions. The theoretical notions of place, space, and re-presentation frame our conversations, while examples from other American cities are often incorporated. A variety of media that contribute to images of Los Angeles will be considered as part of a larger network—cinema, cyberspace, documentary film, maps, murals, music and music videos, novels and short stories, newspapers and magazines, paintings and illustrations, Retablos and other folk art, television, tourist practices, and word of mouth. We can only examine a few of these in detail, but we should not ever forget that they are all interrelated with one another and with the reality of Los Angeles and beyond. We will talk about the concept of inter-textualityand associated post-structural ideas, but we should never forget that there are many versions of any reality we might think we know and they are never independent of one another. In this case these many media contribute to an image of a place called Los Angeles.

Course Objectives: And what new skills and perspectives will you have at the end of the semester other than the fact you will know much more about Los Angeles and how people see it than you did before? You will have a better sense of how to interpret the ways in which media tell us about places, in this case American cities, but you will also be more able to ask how and why do they do it. For example, what broader tales about the U.S. and the American city are being told, what broader issues about its people are embedded in these re-presentations? Race, ethnicity and gender will occupy much of our time, so what do these images say about relations between social and cultural groups in my country? How do different audiences view the same images in these terms? One of our primary objectives then, is to provide you a new framework for interpreting re-presentations not only in terms of people who created them, but perhaps more importantly in understanding the ways in which they reflect the broader culture and society within which they were made.
Course Requirements: A final examination will comprise 20% of your grade, attendance, participation and several smaller papers will be 40%, and your final paper will be 40%. Less than ideal attendance can have a negative influence on your grade. Your final paper will be a detailed and comparative study of works from within several media in terms of the ways in which they re-present the city of Los Angeles. You will be expected to incorporate the ideas we have discussed in class and have derived from our readings. Details are forthcoming, but relax, we will discuss the possible subjects and the ways in which you can approach them in detail.

Required Readings
The only book that is required is a short novel, The Day of the Locust, by Nathaniel West. We will be drawing select readings from City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (2006 edition) by Mike Davis, so you may wish to obtain a copy; it is considered to be a classic (the original edition was 1990). All other readings will be made available to you or the references will be provided and you can download them. More important, you will also be asked to find articles that will not be provided by me but that you will find through your own searching. Many of these will be included in the bibliography you will include in your paper.

We will watch and listen to pieces and segments direct from the web in terms of advertisements, music videos, and other media forms. While this class is about many different media, we will emphasize film for at least the first third of the semester. If we can somehow watch one or two, they will likely come from the following list: Blade Runner, Chinatown, Double Indemnity, Menace to Society, L.A. Story, Quincenera orMiFamilia, although there are so many, many interesting possibilities. How about Clueless?

Office and Contact
Office: B-017

Office Hours: Thursday 2.00-4.00 or by appointment

Please note that it is appropriate to contact me for appointments or information about class content at my email address,