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David Thorburn
Professor; MacVicar Faculty Fellow; Director, MIT Communications Forum
Office: 14N-335  .  PBX: 617-253-6950  .  Email: thorburn@mit.edu

David Thorburn

Research Interests: Modern cultural studies; romantic and modern literature; film, media, popular culture; American television; cultural history; American studies

David Thorburn is Professor of Literature at MIT and Director of the MIT Communications Forum. His most recent books (co-edited with Henry Jenkins) are Democracy and New Media and Rethinking Media Change, the launch volumes in the MIT Press series "Media in Transition" of which he is editor in chief. Other writings include Conrad's Romanticism and many essays and reviews on literature and media in such publications as Partisan Review, Commentary, The New York Times and The American Prospect as well as scholarly journals. He has published poetry in such magazines as The Atlantic Monthly, Threepenny Review and Slate. His essays on television, written in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and his course, "American Television: A Cultural History," were among the first in the country to examine the medium in a humanistic context. He has also edited collections of essays on romanticism and on John Updike as well as a widely used anthology of fiction, Initiation.

Prof. Thorburn was the founder and for twelve years the Director of the MIT Film and Media Studies Program, the ancestor of the Comparative Media Studies Program, MIT's first graduate program in the Humanities. Founded 25 years ago, the MIT Communications Forum sponsors lectures, panel discussions and occasional conferences devoted to the political and cultural impact of communications, with special emphasis on emerging technologies. Prof. Thorburn has been the Forum's director since 1996.

In 2002, Prof. Thorburn was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow, MIT's highest teaching award. He received his A.B. degree from Princeton, his M.A. and Ph.D. from Stanford and taught in the English Department at Yale for ten years before joining the MIT faculty in 1976.



Story Machine: Prime Time Television in the Network Era
in preparation; contracted with Oxford University Press

Modern Fiction in English: An Introduction
in preparation; contracted with Yale University Press

Rethinking Media Change: The Aesthetics of Transition
co-edited with an introduction with Henry Jenkins
MIT Press, 2003

Democracy and New Media
co-edited with an introduction with Henry Jenkins
MIT Press, 2003

John Updike: A Collection of Critical Essays
co-edited, with an introduction
Prentice Hall, 1979

Conrad's Romanticism
Yale University Press, 1974; second printing, 1975

Romanticism: Vistas, Instances, Continuities
co-edited with Geoffrey Hartman
Cornell University Press, 1973

Initiation: Stories and Short Novels on Three Themes
edited with an introduction
Harcourt Brace, 1971; second edition, 1976
https://web.mit.edu/21l.485/www/readings/ThorburnInitiation.pdf (requires MIT certificate)


Selected Articles

"Who Are You, Mr. English Professor?"
Pedogogy 4:2 (2004), 344-48

"The Sopranos"
Encyclopedia of Television, second edition, 2004, pp. 2134-2137

"The Digital Revolution, the Informed Citizen, and the Culture of Democracy"
Democracy and New Media, (2003) ed. Jenkins and Thorburn, pp. 1-17. Co-author, Henry Jenkins

"Toward an Aesthetics of Transition"
Rethinking Media Change, (2003) ed. Jenkins and Thorburn, pp. 1-16. Co-author, Henry Jenkins

"Web of Paradox"
The American Prospect, Sept-Oct. 1998, 78-80
Reprinted, Rethinking Media Change, (2003) eds. Thorburn and Jenkins, pp. 19-22

"The Name of the Game"
Encyclopedia of Television (1997), pp. 660-61
Revised, second edition, 2004, pp. 1589-1591

"A Short History of the TV Detective"
Museum of Broadcasting Encyclopedia of Television, ed. Newcomb (Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, Chicago, 1997), pp. 331-340
Revised, second edition, 2004, pp. 690-696

"Interpretation and Judgment: A Reading of Lonesome Dove"
Critical Studies in Mass Communication 10 (1993) 113-127

"The MIT-James Joyce Connection"
Technology Review, April 1993, 24-25

"Television as an Aesthetic Medium"
Critical Studies in Mass Communication 4 (1987), 161-173
Reprinted, Media, Myths, and Narratives, Sage Annual Reviews of Communications Research, ed. James Carey (Sage Publications, 1988)
https://web.mit.edu/21l.011/www/readings/Thorburn_TelevisionAsAestheticMedium.pdf (requires MIT certificate)

"The Fiction in Our News, The News in Our Fiction"
The Classroom and the Newsroom, ed. Robert Schmuhl (Bloomington, Indiana, 1979), PP. 46-64

"Television Without Guilt"
Parent's Choice (Nov-Dec 1978), 12

"Is TV Acting a Distinctive Art Form?"
New York Times, August 14, 1977, Arts Section, p. 19
Reprinted, The Television Book, ed. Judy Fireman (Workman, 1977)

"Television Melodrama,"
Television as a Cultural Force
, ed. Richard Adler (Praeger Publications, 1976), 77-94
Reprinted, Television: The Critical View , ed. Horace Newcomb (Oxford University Press, 1979; 1982; 1984; 1986, 1999)
Reprinted, Understanding Television , ed. Adler (Praeger, 1981)
https://web.mit.edu/21l.011/www/readings/tvmelodrama.pdf (requires MIT certificate)

"Realism Redux"
Yale Review (June 1977), 584-91.
Reprinted, Essays on Updike (G.K. Hall, 1983)
Reprinted, Modern American Literature , (Frederick Ungar, 1984)

"Fiction and Imagination in Don Quixote"
Partisan Review 3 (1975) 431-43
https://web.mit.edu/21l.485/www/readings/ThorburnInitiation.pdf (requires MIT certificate)

"Conrad's Romanticism: Self-Consciousness and Community"
Romanticism: Vistas ... (1974), 221-254

"A Dissent on Pynchon"
56 (September 1973) 68-70
Reprinted, Contemporary Literary Criticism (1974)


Classes Taught

21L.000J Writing About Literature

21L.003 Reading Fiction

21L.011 The Film Experience

21L.012 Forms of Western Narrative

21L.421 Comedy

21L.430 Popular Narrative

21L.432 American Television: A Cultural History

21L.433 Film Styles and Genres

21L.435 Literature and Film

21L.701 Literary Interpretation

21L.707 Problems in Cultural Interpretation

21L.485 Modern Fiction

21L.488 Contemporary Literature

CMS.801 Media in Transition [Comparative Media Studies graduate subject]