In this course we will explore the genre of the audio podcast: Where did it originate? How does it relate to storytelling, journalism or documentary? Does it fit the discipline of English, Media Studies, Sociology? What differentiates podcasting from radio broadcasts, audiobooks, or spoken word recordings? What unites the many, varied approaches to the form which is produced by d.i.y. podcasters in garages and trained broadcasting professionals in multi-million dollar studios? Forbes Magazine recently reported “there are now 62 million Americans listening to podcasts each week, up from 19 million in 2013 . . . 800,000 active podcasts with over 54 million podcast episodes currently available worldwide.” While the ubiquity of screen devices can seem designate the 21st century as a visual age, the rise of podcasting suggests a counter trend of interest to students of literature and digital culture.
The course will begin with a consideration of some literary pre-cursors such as oral poetry, traditional story-telling, early 20th-century radio drama and post-war sound poetry. Students will also be introduced to the interdisciplinary discourse of “sound studies.” But our primary focus will be on the contemporary podcast with a special attention to its literary dimensions, where the podcast draws upon or reconfigures traditional narrative and poetic techniques.
Using Spinelli and Dann’s recent Podcasting: The Audio Media Revolution (Bloomsbury, 2019) as a guide, we’ll study podcast production and together listen to some of the most significant podcasts being made today. Students will also choose a podcast series to study individually and write about critically, probably in review format. In addition to producing a critical essay about some topic in podcasting, students will each plan, record, produce, and publish an original audio podcast. Engaging in the making of podcasts should give students an experiential relationship to podcasting, enhancing their productive digital literacy.