The Media and Cultural Studies (MCS) program emphasizes the study of media in their historical, economic, social, and political context. We examine the cultural forms created and disseminated by media industries and the ways in which they resonate in everyday life, on the individual, national, and global level. Focusing primarily on sound and screen media — television, new media, film, popular music, radio, video games — but reaching out across boundaries, MCS encourages interdisciplinary and transmedia research. MCS courses draw on a broad range of cultural theories spanning a spectrum of concerns all centrally relevant to the functioning of sound and screen media in a diverse and globalizing cultural environment. Through coursework in the Ph.D minor, graduates also can integrate study in such overlapping fields as history, ethnic studies, gender studies, sociology, and global studies.
For degree requirements and other detailed program information, please consult the graduate handbook:
Communication Arts Graduate Handbook
Recent and forthcoming upper division and graduate level seminars include:
- Adaptations and Continuations (J. Gray)
- Culture Industries (D. Johnson)
- Digital Commodities (J. Morris)
- Digital Game Cultures (D. Johnson)
- Digital Methods (J. Morris)
- Essential Digital Media Production for Graduate Students (E. Hoyt)
- Ethics of Entertainment Media (J. Lopez)
- Fan Studies (L. Lopez)
- Feminist Media Studies (L. Lopez)
- Gender, Sexuality, and Media (L. Lopez)
- Global Media Movement (J. Gray)
- Media and Cultural Theory (J. Gray and D. Johnson)
- Media Audience Cultures (J. Gray)
- Media Historiography (E. Hoyt)
- Media Labor (D. Johnson)
- Media Reproduction (D. Johnson)
- Production Cultures (D. Johnson)
- Qualitative Research Methods and Writing for Media and Cultural Studies (L. Lopez and J. Morris)
- Race and Racism in the Media (L. Lopez)
- Race and Technology (L. Lopez)
- Sound Cultures: Podcasting and Music (J. Morris)
- Sound Studies, Sound Cultures (J. Morris)
- Sports Media (J. Lopez)
- Television Comedy (J. Gray)
- Textuality: Beyond the Screen (J. Gray)
Current, ongoing PhD dissertators and dissertation topics include:
- Sarah Edwards: The intersection of nation branding and the social media entertainment industry
- Daphne Gershon: Representations of (dysfunctional) sex and sexuality on TV and in digital media in the networked era
- Ceci Moffett: Representational paradigms of race in adaptations and alternate histories
- Ben Pettis: The dominance of corporate power over how people experience online platforms as “users” of the internet
- Olivia Riley: Applying disability media studies methods to podfic fandoms
- Tom Welch: The queer politics of freely distributed video games
- Taylore Woodhouse: Community and identity in imagined futures of the esports industry
(read about recent and completed dissertations here)
A weekly graduate student/faculty colloquium gives students the opportunity to present their own work and to hear guest lecturers from a range of disciplinary perspectives, often in cooperation with other departmental areas. We also use this time also to present information and facilitate discussions of publishing, conference presentations, and the job search process.
The Velvet Light Trap is a semi-annual journal publishing work on film, television, and other media. It is edited entirely by graduate students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the University of Texas-Austin.
The MCS Graduate Program is designed to train future media scholars and university faculty; students are admitted with the assumption that they will carry on to the Ph.D. Terminal MAs are rare and not encouraged. Though courses in film, video, and new media production are offered, this is not a production program. Financial support is provided primarily through teaching appointments, so students must have a level of English competency sufficient for the classroom.
Our graduates teach at major universities across the country, and indeed around the world. See our recent Ph.D. page for examples.
The study of media and culture is enhanced at Madison by the presence of significant resources that aid critical inquiry and research. In particular, the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, founded in 1960, is one of the leading US centers for archival documentation in film, television, radio and theater history, containing over 300 collections and thousands of films, television programs, and audio recordings.