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ARTH 310
An American Family and "Reality" Television Spring 2021
Division I Writing Skills
Cross-listed ARTH 310 / WGSS 312 / AMST 333

Class Details

An American Family was a popular documentary series that featured the Loud family from Santa Barbara, California, whose everyday lives were broadcast on national television. The series generated an enormous amount of media attention, commentary, and controversy when it premiered on PBS in 1973. Today, it is regarded as the origin of so-called “Reality TV.” In addition to challenging standard rules for television programming, the show challenged social conventions and asked viewers to think seriously about family relations, sexuality, domesticity, and the “American dream.” Documenting the family’s life over the course of eight months, the series chronicled the dissolution of the Louds’ marriage and broadcast the “coming out” of eldest son Lance Loud, the first star of reality television. In this class, we will view the An American Family series in its entirety, research the program’s historical reception, and analyze its influence on broadcast and film media, particularly on “reality” television. A final 14- to 18-page research paper will be prepared in stages, including a 6- to 8-page midterm essay that will be revised and expanded over the course of the semester.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 18
Expected: 14
Class#: 4012
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class presentations, research assignments, and final 14- to 18-page research paper
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: junior Art majors, followed by senior majors
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ARTH 310 Division I WGSS 312 Division II AMST 333 Division II
WS Notes: There will be considerable focus on writing and peer-editing as a means of shaping critical thinking. We will treat writing as a process; revision is built into the syllabus. Students will receive from the instructor timely comments on their writing skills, with suggestions for improvement.
Attributes: AMST Arts in Context Electives
ARTH post-1800 Courses
FMST Core Courses

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