Television Histories: Shaping Collective Memory in the Media Age

Overview

Winner of the 2001 Ray and Pat Browne National Book Award for Outstanding Textbook, given by the Popular Culture Association From Ken Burns's documentaries to historical dramas such as Roots, from A&E's Biography series to CNN, television has become the primary source for historical information for tens of millions of Americans today. Why has television become such a respected authority? What falsehoods enter our collective memory as truths? How is one to know what is real and what is imagined -- or ignored ...

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Overview

Winner of the 2001 Ray and Pat Browne National Book Award for Outstanding Textbook, given by the Popular Culture Association From Ken Burns's documentaries to historical dramas such as Roots, from A&E's Biography series to CNN, television has become the primary source for historical information for tens of millions of Americans today. Why has television become such a respected authority? What falsehoods enter our collective memory as truths? How is one to know what is real and what is imagined -- or ignored -- by producers, directors, or writers? Gary Edgerton and Peter Rollins have collected a group of essays that answer these and many other questions. The contributors examine the full spectrum of historical genres, but also institutions such as the History Channel and production histories of such series as The Jack Benny Show, which ran for fifteen years. The authors explore the tensions between popular history and professional history, and the tendency of some academics to declare the past "off limits" to nonscholars. Several of them point to the tendency for television histories to embed current concerns and priorities within the past, as in such popular shows as Quantum Leap and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. The result is an insightful portrayal of the power television possesses to influence our culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Winner of the 2001 Ray and Pat Browne Award for Outstanding Textbook given by the Popular Culture Association." --

"Offers much food for thought in this highly visual age." -- Alliance (OH) Review

"As an example of well-reasoned, original research, Television Histories makes an important contribution to the study of the medium." -- Anthony Slide, Classic Images

"This book is even more timely and provocative because much of the material discussed is being rebroadcast now that digital television is opening even more new channels." -- Choice

"An engrossing collection that slides the thorny subject of television, history, and memory under a microscope.... Digs deep into a contemporary phenomenon, and its many conclusions are right on target." -- Film & History

"Helps those of us who care about history think more clearly about how television can shape historical thinking among our friends, neighbors, and students." -- Florida Historical Quarterly

"Television Histories, a pioneer work, weaves an inspired and informed interdisciplinary analysis of television and history. The chapters are enlightening, readable, and entertaining; the editors and the authors have produced a work that enriches and strengthens the study of film and history." -- Michael Schoenecke

"The stuff serious thinkers in a media age should read, mark and remember." -- Rockland (ME) Courier-Gazette

"An insightful and important addition to the literature that sheds light on an often controversial subject for professional historians." -- Southern Historian

"Most of the essays are likely to be of considerable value to any attentive student of television." -- Television Quarterly

"Working from the thesis that people learn about history through television more than any other medium, Edgerton and Rollins look at what TV subliminally teaches us by what is shows and does not show." -- Variety

Television Quarterly
TELEVISION HISTORIES is grounded in large part on the assumption-laid out by Edgerton in his introduction-that 'television is the principal means by which most people learn about history today' . . . Its sixteen essays in four sections (Prime-Time Entertainment Programming as Historian, The Television Documentary as Historian, News and Public Affairs Programming as Historian, and Television Production, Reception, and History), present an ambitious agenda. Some of the subjects examined seem almost obligatory in such a volume: the documentaries of Ken Burns (Edgerton's essay focuses on THOMAS JEFFERSON but provides an excellent introduction to Burns' 'emotional archaeology') for example . . . many inclusions are surprising and original . . .valuable new collection of essays on television's treatment of history.--David Lavery, Middle Tennessee State University
Classic Images
As an example of well-researched, original research,TELEVISION HISTORIES makes an important contribution to the study of the medium.--Anthony Slide
Choices
Edgerton and Rollins take a sweeping look at history on television . . . timely and provocative.--M. J. Miller, Brock University
Film & History
Professors Edgerton and Rollins have compiled an engrossing collection that slides the thorny subject of television, history, and memory under a microscope scrutinizing such diverse topics as Israeli news, Hawaiian colonialism, Dutch reporting of World War II, and the Berlin Wall collapse. Other subjects include the McCarthy Hearings, Ken Burns' THOMAS JEFFERSON extravaganza, plus a few essays pondering entertainment, production, and reception. As an academic study, TELEVISION HISTORIES digs deep into a contemporary phenomenon and its many conclusions are right on target. Once agin, these two experienced editors-well-known for their media research-have produced a book that will generate many lunch table arguments about a topic that . . . is here to stay.-- Robert W. Matson, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
Library Journal
Although the fourth and final part of this book focuses on the history of the television medium itself (as the title might suggest), the first three parts consist of essays on the increasingly popular theme of "television as historian," discussing specific types of programming and the histories they have presented. Editors Edgerton (communication and theater arts, Old Dominion Univ.) and Rollins (English, Oklahoma State Univ.) make several basic assumptions at the beginning, the "first and most basic" (and perhaps most controversial) being that television is "the principal means by which most people learn about history today." Written by prominent academics from the fields of communications and/or history, the fairly dense essays examine the types of "histories" that have been presented on television in the areas of prime-time entertainment, documentaries, and news and public affairs, not only in the United States but internationally as well. A lengthy bibliography of books and articles on "Researching Television as Historian" is provided, as are brief biographical notes on the contributors. Access to this detailed work is provided by two indexes, one general and one listing movies and television shows. Recommended for all academic libraries supporting history and communications programs. --Angela Weiler, SUNY at Morrisville Lib
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813190563
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 5/6/2003
  • Edition description: Subsequent
  • Pages: 392
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Television as Historian: A Different Kind of History Altogether 1
Pt. I Prime-Time Entertainment Programming as Historian
1 History TV and Popular Memory 19
2 Masculinity and Femininity in Television's Historical Fictions: Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman 37
3 Quantum Leap: The Postmodern Challenge of Television as History 59
4 Profiles in Courage: Televisual History on the New Frontier 79
Pt. II The Television Documentary as Historian
5 Victory at Sea: Cold War Epic 103
6 Breaking the Mirror: Dutch Television and the History of the Second World War 123
7 Contested Public Memories: Hawaiian History as Hawaiian or American Experience 143
8 Mediating Thomas Jefferson: Ken Burns as Popular Historian 169
Pt. III TV News and Public Affairs Programming as Historian
9 Pixies: Homosexuality, Anti-Communism, and the Army - McCarthy Hearings 193
10 Images of History in Israel Television News: the Territorial Dimension of Collective Memories, 1987-1990 207
11 Memories of 1945 and 1963: American Television Coverage of the End of the Berlin Wall, November 9, 1989 230
12 Television: The First Flawed Rough Drafts of History 244
Pt. IV Television Production, Reception, and History
13 The History Channel and the Challenge of Historical Programming Brian Taves 261
14 Rethinking Television History 282
15 Nice Guys Last Fifteen Seasons: Jack Benny on Television, 1950-1965 309
16 Organizing Difference on Global TV: Television History and Cultural Geography 335
Selected Bibliography: Additional Sources for Researching Television as Historian 357
Contributors 366
Television and Film Index 370
General Index 376
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