On Wednesday, May 20th, between 11: 30 am and 1: 30 pm, three

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Introduction to Media Studies Prof. Stuart Ewen

MEDIA 180 Department of Film & Media Studies

Spring Semester 2015 Distributed May 13, 2015
On Wednesday, May 20th, between 11:30 AM and 1:30 PM, three (3) of the following questions will appear on the final examination. You are expected to write essays in response to two (2) of them. As with the midterm, the exam will be open book and open notebook. While you are not permitted to bring in pre-written exam questions, you should feel free to develop outlines that included relevant quotes from readings, lectures, sections, etc. You will have two hours to complete the exam.
1) In the “Stereoscope and the Stereograph” Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote:
Form is henceforth divorced from matter. In fact, matter...is of no great use any longer except as the mold on which form is shaped. …Every conceivable object of Nature and Art will soon scale off its surface for us. Men [he predicted] will hunt all curious, beautiful grand objects, as they hunt the cattle in S. America, for their skins, and leave the carcasses as of little worth.
Making use of at least two specific examples from present day advertising, fashion or other current media forms, write an essay in which you discuss the extent to which Holmes’s prediction accurately described the ways that American consumer culture routinely uses the skins of the visible world and usurps them for commercial purposes. To what extent do you think that this process alienates people from their capacity to appreciate or comprehend the material world? You should attach physical copies of your examples to your exam papers.
To what extent do you think the skinning of the visible world offers people new opportunities to express important ideas? In answering this question, be sure to make specific reference to relevant readings and other pertinent course materials.
2) In the second half of the course, we have explored the ways that the idea of self-improvement, or the construction of self, has evolved from Benjamin Franklin in the late 18th century through the before and after media of the present. Write an essay in which you compare and contrast the tale of self or social improvement in relation to three of the following:

  1. Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography;

  2. Horatio Alger’s Ragged Dick;

  3. Buster Keaton, “Sherlock Junior”;

  4. Malcolm X and Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X;

  5. The rise of modern advertising, and the emergence of “the commodity self.”

3) Benjamin Franklin and Malcolm X consciously sought to improve themselves using particular self-designed strategies. Write an essay that explains why these plans were especially unique, given the time period, comparing and contrasting the two in order to make your points. In conclusion, describe a self-improvement plan for today. Tell us why your plan is especially suited for our current personal, societal and psychological needs.

4) In “The Engineering of Consent” Edward Bernays argued that “the right to persuade” was a natural extension of The Bill of Rights, and that public relations techniques were consistent with the values of a democracy. Write a well-argued essay in which you either support or refute Bernays’s argument. Ground your argument historically by utilizing information from lecture and citing clear examples from at least three of the following: “Century of the Self,” “Visiting Edward Bernays,” “Selling Lucky Strike Cigarettes to Women,” and ERES selections from Walter Lippmann. Discuss in detail at least one example taken from recent or current events to support and illustrate your argument.
5) In The Photoplay: A Psychological Study (1916), Hugo Münsterberg claimed that movies “act as our imagination acts. [They have] the mobility of our ideas which are not controlled by the physical necessity of outer events but by the psychological laws for the association of ideas.  In our mind past and future become intertwined with the present. The photoplay obeys the laws of the mind rather than those of the outer world.”  

Imagine that you are a film critic writing for a New York City newspaper in 1924. Write a review of “Sherlock, Jr.” (1924) as if you had just watched it for the first time. Compare it to “The Kleptomaniac” (1905) and “A Corner in Wheat” (1909), making specific references to plot, scenes and filmmaking techniques used in each film. Discuss the evolution of storytelling from a method based on the factual presentation of “outer events” to one that increasingly “obeys the laws of the mind.” Also include ideas about changing audiences, making reference to lectures and the “City Lights” article. What social developments may have influenced the change towards an increasingly psychological approach to storytelling?
6) In Part 4 of All Consuming Images, “The Politics of Style in Contemporary Culture,” it is argued that images, though often silent, serve as powerful tools for passing on social values, often transforming them into ideals of beauty. Write an essay in which you discuss the ways that commercial images “aestheticize” social ideas regarding one of the following:
a. social power and the regimentation of human behavior;

b. consumption, waste and disposability;

c. shifts in the definition of economic value.
In developing your essay cite and discuss at least three specific examples—drawn from the present day visual media, and from your reading of All Consuming Images—which help to support your argument. To what extent do the images and ideas you are writing about conceal other possible ways of understanding the world? Include Attach your examples to your exam bluebook.

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