English 250, section 2: Mass Entertainment in Renaissance London and Golden-Age Hollywood

Instructor: Jeffrey Knapp

For most writers on the subject, mass entertainment is a distinctively modern phenomenon, made possible by unprecedented technological advances in production and distribution.  Our course will challenge the historical as well as theoretical constraints on mass entertainment that this technocentric conception imposes.  We’ll study the theory and practice of mass entertainment during two moments of major innovation in mass entertainment: when permanent theaters were first built in sixteenth-century London, and when talking pictures were first marketed in twentieth-century Hollywood.  Comparing plays and movies to the Renaissance and modern commentary on them, we’ll treat these works not simply as examples of mass entertainment but also as analyses of it.

Required Books:

English Renaissance Drama, ed. Bevington et al.

Norton (ISBN 0393976556)

Four Great Tragedies, William Shakespeare

Mass Market (ISBN 0451527291)

Henry IV Part 1, William Shakespeare

Mass Market (ISBN 0451527119)

Other texts for discussion will be posted on bSpace whenever possible; for texts that cannot be posted, there will be a Course Reader.


Required Movies:

Most of the movies for the course are available for rent or purchase from iTunes or Amazon Instant Video.  You may view all of them for free at the Media Resources Center in 245 Moffitt Library.

  • Elective Requirement: This course may fulfill the elective requirement for the DE in REMS, according to the topic of the research paper you write.