Media Communication: Intergenerational Dynamics in African American and Jewish American Media

American Studies M.A. program, Fall 2017

Instructor: Dana Mihăilescu


This seminar explores patterns of intergenerational dynamics in various African American and Jewish American media from the early 20th century until the present, i.e. graphic narratives, films and TV sitcoms. We will look at specific issues of transmission and clashes between generations at different moments in time, and the degree to which they reflect obedience to mainstream American dominant /traditional perceptions or acts of resistance fostering racial/ethnic/personal emancipation. The seminar finally aims to foster students’ ability to develop critical thinking on issues of intergenerational encounters in mass media and to identify prejudiced stereotypes as well as strategies of resistance and emancipatory reconfiguration of ethno-racial and American identities in mass media over time.


1. Introduction.

2. Theories of Mass Media Representation (the social-psychological perspective, the critical-cultural perspective, visual images as arguments)

Readings: Luter, Catherine A., Carolyn Ringer Lepre, Naeemah Clark. “Theoretical Foundations of Research in Mass Media Representations.” Diversity in U.S. Mass Media. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2012. 13-31.

Lipsitz, George. “The Meaning of Memory: Family, Class, and Ethnicity in Early Network Television Programs [selection].”Gender, Race, and Class in Media. A Critical Reader. Eds. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Los Angeles: Sage, 2011. 25-31.

3. Theories of Intergenerational Memory Dynamics.

Rothberg, Michael. “Hidden Children: The Ethics of Multigenerational Memory after 1961.” Multidirectional Memory. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009. 267-308.

Hirsch, Marianne. “Projected Memory.” The Generation of Postmemory. Writing and Visual Culture after the Holocaust. New York: Columbia University Press, 2012. 155-176.

4. Representations of African Americans in Mass Media. Overview.

Reading: Catherine A. Luter, Carolyn Ringer Lepre, Naeemah Clark. “Representations of African Americans.” Diversity in U.S. Mass Media. Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2012. 56-82.

[Clips from Birth of a Nation (1915) and Birth of a Nation (2016)]

5. Intergenerational Encounters and African American Identity in sitcoms from the 1980s to the present: The Cosby Show (1984-1992) and Black-ish (2014-)

Reading: Innis, Leslie B. and Joe R. Feagin. “The Cosby Show. The View from the Black Middle Class.” Say It Loud! African-American Audiences, Media and Identity. Ed. Robin R. Means Coleman. New York: Routledge, 2002. 187-204.

6. Intergenerational Encounters and African American Identity in the 2000 U.S.: Boondocks Animated TV Sitcom (episodes 1, 12-season 1; ep. 5-season 2; episode 1-season 3)

Reading: Cornwell, Nancy C. and Mark P. Orbe. “‘Keepin’ It Real’ and/or ‘Sellin’ Out to the Man’. African-American Responses to Aaron McGruder’s The Boondocks.” Say It Loud! African-American Audiences, Media and Identity. Ed. Robin R. Means Coleman. New York: Routledge, 2002. 27-43.

7. Features of Parent-Child Relations for Turn of the 20th Century Jewish American Families: The Jazz Singer (1927) and its remake, The Jazz Singer (1980) 


Whitfield, Stephen J. “All That Jazz.” Voices of Jacob, Hands of Esau: Jews in American Life and Thought. Hamden, CONN: Archon Books, 1984. 159-171.


Gabbard, Krin. “The Ethnic Oedipus: The Jazz Singer and Its Remakes.” Play It Again, Sam. Retakes on Remakes. Eds. Andrew Horton and Stuart Y. McDougal. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. 95-115.


8. Intergenerational Patterns in 1910s-1930s Jewish American Families: Leela Corman’s Unterzakhn (2011)

9. Intergenerational Patterns in 1940s-1950s Jewish American Families: The Goldbergs Sitcom (“Dreams”) vs. The Goldbergs (2013-)

Readings: Brook, Vincent. “The Americanization of Molly: How Mid-Fifties TV Homogenized The Goldbergs (and Got “Berg-larized” in the Process).” Cinema Journal 38.4 (Summer 1999): 45-67.

Antler, Joyce. “Molly Goldberg: ‘The Prototype of the Jewish Mother’ in the Twentieth Century.” You Never Call! You Never Write! A History of the Jewish Mother. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. 47-72.

10. The Holocaust and Popular Trauma Culture in the U.S.: Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm Episode “The Survivor” (2004).

Rothe, Anne. “Introduction. Oprah at Auschwitz” / “American Survivors.” Popular Trauma Culture. Selling the Pain of Others in the Mass Media. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2011. 1-6, 32-41. [Optional: watch documentary Imaginary Witness, Hollywood and the Holocaust (2004)] 

11. Intergenerational Patterns in Post-Holocaust Jewish American Families: Miriam Katin’s Letting it Go (2013) and Diane Noomin’s “I Was A Red Diaper Baby” (2003)

12. Intergenerational Patterns and Jewish – Non-White Encounters in post-Holocaust America: Sydney Lumet’s The Pawnbroker (1965)

Reading: Alan Rosen. “’Teach Me Gold’: Pedagogy and Memory in The Pawnbroker.” Prooftexts 22(2002): 77-117.

13. Intergenerational Patterns and Jewish – Non-White Encounters in post-Holocaust America: Woody Allen’s Zelig (1983)

Reading: Jennifer Glaser, “Introduction.” Borrowed Voices. Writing and Racial Ventriloquism in the Jewish American Imagination. New York: Rutgers University Press, 2016. 1-14. 

14. Draft of final essay due this week. Discussion of projects / Final essay due within a week.


Requirements and grade assessment:

Students are expected to constantly take part in class discussions and to read the texts on a weekly basis. They are to present / analyze one text on the reading list, and write one 6-9 page project essay (MLA citation style, 12 Times New Roman, double spacing). The essay should represent a close reading of a graphic narrative / TV episode / film of those discussed in class, highlighting the manner in which it addresses intergenerational dynamics in African American or Jewish American families. Plagiarism will be penalized by failure on the assignment and course.


Grade breakdown:

Presentation +class participation: 1/2 of final grade

Written paper: 1/2 of final grade









Last updated at: October 09, 2017.