About the Course

From Walt Whitman’s broad embrace of American readers in the 19th century to the digital social networks of today, this course examines how various media form communities of readers and writers. We will investigate how lyric poetry creates one kind of intimacy between author and reader, how blogs establish another, and how the NBC television comedy Community builds its own cult following. Davidson College meets Greendale Community College in a course that teaches you how to read, analyze, and respond critically and creatively to various forms of print and digital media. You will write multimedia essays for online publication, even as you critically examine how digital tools foster specific kinds of communities (technical training provided).

Texts & topics under consideration include: Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home (graphic novel, public lecture), The Hunger Games (novel & film),  Claudia Rankine’s Citizen (lyrical prose), NBC’s Community (tv show), Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin (short stories), Cabaret (musical), fake news, memes, poems, illustrated books, and digital games.

ENG 110B: Media & Community meets the “Literary Studies, Creative Writing, and Rhetoric” distribution major and may be counted as an elective for the English major.


  • a spirit of adventure
  • a willingness to take intellectual risks
  • a desire to stretch your imagination and hone your critical thinking skills

Core Concepts

  • All types of media have distinctive attributes, or affordances, that structure, shape, and limit what can be done in that form.
  • All media must be approached with an attentiveness to the historical and material contexts in which they are produced and consumed.
  • Meaning and value are not inherent in any media form or genre, but are shaped by conventions—communal assumptions and expectations about the form that are relatively stable, but nevertheless change over time.
  • community is a relationship between two or more people in a given setting that may be virtual or real, bounded in time and space, transhistorical, or global.
  • Various forms of media foster communities in particular contexts, and these communities agree on conventions for the production and consumption of media.

Course Goals

  • to foster literary appreciation for changing forms of print and digital media
  • to identify differences and commonalities between and across various media and interpretive communities
  • to practice reading, viewing, and listening as modes of critical inquiry
  • to practice writing as a form of conversation and creative inquiry
  • to build courage, confidence, and integrity in intellectual debate
  • to develop literacy in blogging and digital media
  • to form an academic community based on a shared set of goals and bylaws

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the semester, you should be able to:

  • Read multimedia texts critically, which entails asking questions, identifying patterns, and recognizing motives and rhetorical strategies.
  • Identify a critical question raised by a text, which may be of significant intellectual, social, political, or aesthetic interest.
  • Authenticate the validity and credibility of sources.
  • Compose an argument that articulates a core idea or question, situates it in a larger conversation, and asserts a clear, focused answer or hypothesis.
  • Select, analyze, and explain relevant supporting evidence.
  • Write in your own voice in a clear, confident, concise manner.
  • Recognize, distinguish, and utilize the affordances of print & digital media.