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Celebrity, Society and the Media
University of Westminster
Liberal Arts and Sciences
Module Leader- Kiki Olsen
Module Code: 1LIB413
Coursework: 40% essay; 30% media analysis; 30%
The module aims to provide students with the understanding that the current media obsession with ‘celebrities’ is not a 21st century phenomenon but a social need that has occurred throughout the ages. Students will explore the role of the celebrity from Helen of Troy via Lord Byron and Lillie Langtry to Oscar Wilde and, more recently, Princess Diana, and the Beckhams.
They will understand when and why the cult of celebrity flourishes as well as being able to analyse how and why publications with different target audiences report on the same celebrity (in word and images) to appeal to their readership. Students will be able to identify news or features that are generated by public relations offices/press agent hacks. They will learn how to conduct successful interviews as well as analyse how and why journalists use interviews to manipulate public opinion about public figures.
By the end of the module, students are expected to be able to:
demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the history of ‘celebrity’ and the role it has played in shaping cultural values;
explore and dismantle the social construct of ‘celebrity’ and analyse its interrelation (in
Britain or America) with the media and wider society in the past century;
analyse the ways in which various media publications project the idea of ‘celebrity’ in light of their target audiences;
draft and assess celebrity interviews and features for a specified target audience;
communicate effectively in good written English.
INDICATIVE SYLLABUS CONTENT:
The history of society's need to create (and often destroy) celebrities;
the role the media plays in creating celebrities;
Gossip-mongering from Cicero to Defoe;
Celebrity ‘mania’ from Byron to the Beatles;
Celebrity in the 19th and 20th centuries;
Celebrity and gossip columns in the USA in the inter-war period;
Contemporary media and the cult of the celebrity.
TEACHING AND LEARNING METHODS
This module is delivered via lectures and seminars. The module leader expects and
encourages a great deal of interchange with the students in analysing media as well as
discussions of issues raised in the lectures. There will be teamwork in groups and there will be guest lecturers whose areas of expertise are germane to the module, e.g. public relations experts and actors, as well as visits to newspapers which keep the rivers of celebrity gossip flowing.
Assessment is designed to allow students to demonstrate their knowledge of the history of ‘celebrity’ and its interaction with society and the media. It is also intended to allow students to demonstrate their skills at media analysis, and to practice working and writing skills relevant to the world of celebrity journalism.
ASSESSMENT METHODS AND WEIGHTINGS
The module is assessed via coursework as follows :
Essay (1,500 words) 40%
Media Analysis (1,000 words); 30%
Practical Exercise (Media Feature) (800 words & 200 word self-critique) 30%
In the essay, students are expected to demonstrate that they can:
• understand the question set;
• select, utilise and synthesise appropriate secondary sources;
• formulate and structure an essay which directly addresses and answers the question set and which is based upon accumulated knowledge and developed understanding;
• use appropriate academic conventions and apparatus, including a notation system and
• communicate in good written English.
In the media analysis, students are expected to demonstrate that they can:
• select an appropriate celebrity feature for analysis;
• provide a summary of the ‘personality’, ‘voice’ and readership of the publication;
• analyse the image of the ‘celebrity’ being presented;
• identify and assess the stylistic and presentational techniques being deployed;
• provide an overarching critique of the feature as a case-study in the study of celebrity, society and the media;
• communicate in good written English.
In the practical exercise, students are expected to demonstrate that they can:
• draft a ‘celebrity’ feature for an existing popular or serious periodical;
• select an appropriate real or fictional ‘celebrity’ for presentation;
• make use of appropriate techniques and stylistic written and visual devices;
• select and make use of an appropriate ‘voice’ for the chosen publication;
• effectively convey a convincingly positive or negative image of the ‘celebrity’;
• communicate in appropriately informative and entertaining English;
• append a reflective and self-critical commentary on his or her own feature.
A variety of tabloid and broadsheet newspapers, as well as ‘celebrity’ publications such as HEAT, HELLO, OK and CLOSER.
WALTER WINCHELL by Neal Gabler, Picador Press
TABLOID NATION by Chris Horrie, Andre Deutsch Press
INTERVIEWING FOR JOURNALISTS by Joan Clayton, Piakus Press
GOSSSIP, a History of High Society from 1920 - 1970 by Andrew Barrow, Pan
Press OPRAH WINFREY and the Glamour of Misery by Eva Illouz, Columbia University
Press LIFE, THE MOVIE -- How Entertainment Conquered Reality by Neal Gabler,
Amazon WHEN WILL I BE FAMOUS? by Martin Kelner, BBC Press
CELEBRITIES by TERRY O'NEILL, Little Brown
Date of Initial Validation: June 2004
Date of CASG Approved Modifications:
Date of Re-validation/Review: Spring 2010.
Plagiarism Detection System
Plagiarism as a form of cheating takes place when the student ‘borrows’ or copies information, data or results from an unacknowledged source, without quotation marks or an indication that the presenter is not the original author. Students are likely to fail the module and may even be required to suspend studies at the University if they have cheated in assessment or examinations. It is your responsibility to ensure that you understand correct referencing practices. These are normally outlined in your Course Handbook. Please consult the Module Leader or your Course Leader if you need any further advice. As a university-level student, you are expected to use appropriate references and keep carefully detailed notes of all your sources of material, including any downloaded from the internet. To help eradicate plagiarism and thereby protect the value of your qualification, this module makes use of the JISC Plagiarism Detection System.
You must submit your coursework in electronic form to the JISC system, which will check your work for its originality. The system checks the internet and its own database of previously-submitted material.