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:
All’s Fair at the Fair (1936)
Modern Times (1936)
Blade Runner (1982)