200.016 (16W) [Enter name here] for President": The mythos of the US presidency through popular culture, and the US presidential elections of 2016

Wintersemester 2016/17

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Erster Termin der LV
04.10.2016 12:00 - 14:00 , S.1.05
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LV-Titel englisch
[Enter name here] for President": The mythos of the US presidency through popular culture, and the US presidential elections of 2016
Proseminar (prüfungsimmanente LV )
21 (25 max.)
mögliche Sprache/n der Leistungserbringung
zum Moodle-Kurs

(content: discussion of pragmatics, first contact with the US president/presidency & different forms popular culture)

This class includes graded participation at and contributions to TWO OUTREACH ACTIVITIES which will be co-organized with the Department of English and American Studies and the Austro-American Society:
1) Election Day evening event (Tue, Nov 8)
2) Inauguration Day (Fri, Jan 20)

Additional extracurricular activities: movie nights and presidential debate screenings.

If enrollment numbers exceed the class limit, there will be a pre-selection process.


Intendierte Lernergebnisse

Using rhetoric from the campaign trail, it is safe to say that the 2016 election cycle is "YOOOOOOOOOOOGE", and arguably quite different and crazy at that. We all have certain images in mind when we think of the president of the United States; one of the most pertinent albeit grossly distorted being that of 'the most powerful man (soon perhaps woman) on Earth'. By way of a concerted, semester-long group effort, our course will become immersed in the rich popular culture tradition that has shaped the image/iconography/meaning/significance of the POTUS since the office was created. Popular culture artifacts (ranging from memorabilia and stage plays to merchandise and mass media entertainment products) are the main means for how Americans view and understand their Commander-in-Chief. Moreover, they are also the main tools for exerting 'soft power' over large segments of the global population. Thus, we will explore different permutations of the mythos of the POTUS in different forms of popular culture

The insights and knowledge students gain by way of self-directed research and subsequently guided creative processing will (among other things) serve a knowledge transfer at two dedicated public outreach activities.

Our forays into 'presidential realms' will be intertwined with the current elections providing us with the most dynamic backdrop one could wish for. Our semester-long course will be organized around two key dates: 1) Nov 8 (Election Day), and 2) Jan 20 (Inauguration Day).



Research seminar mode: mini-lecture input, self-directed library research, group discussions, interpretative activities, impulse talks, critical movie analysis/contextualization, work on Moodle, outreach events, extracurricular movie nights, etc.

Be prepared to critically formulate, present & discuss your own (!) thoughts on the topics/texts covered in class since a large part of this class will depend on your concerted input. This class is a research seminar and thus students will be expected to engage in self-directed research. All of the material you will need to get you started will be provided.


The central theme of our class speaks to the historical nodes between American political thought/ideology/practice/discourse and popular culture (i.e. the aggregate activities of the American people). Together, we will follow two trajectories which provide us with the main goals as well as the main challenges for our class: 1) developing an intimate understanding of American cultural context(s) by way of 2) engaging in informed contextualization of the artifacts students will expose themselves to.

For example, thanks to the Hollywood/entertainment/Washington-nexus, artifacts of popular culture offer potent, engaging and educative spaces for a topic that is unfortunately/problematically often met with frowns of boredom and even apathy.

US-Americans are a people who, from their national birth pangs onward, have told themselves as well as the rest of the world about the workings of their 'unique/exceptional' brand of democratic government – at the center of which stands the US president.

* Getting our bearings: Who is the American president? What is the presidency? What are the images that we associate with the POTUS?
* Accessing cultural meaning through popular culture
* Why does popular culture matter?
* Representation and (cultural) meaning
* POTUS as cultural icon
* Artifacts and context(s) – the POTUS comes in many different shapes and sizes (from memorabilia and libraries to plays, films and comic strips)
* In-depth look at different movie images of the president (the historical president, the funny president, the action-hero president, the president in crisis)


Frame, Gregory. The American President in Film and Television: Myth, Politics and Representation. Peter Lang.
Mativko, John. ed. 2005. The American President in Popular Culture. Greenwood Press.
Rollins, Peter and John O’Connor. eds. 2003. Hollywood’s White House: The American President in Film and History. Univ. Press of Kentucky

Coyne, Michael. 2008. Hollywood Goes to Washington: American Politics on Screen. Reaktion Books.
Edwards, George C. et al. eds. 2014. Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy. Pearson.
Foy, Joseph J. 2008. Homer Simpson Goes to Washington: American Politics through Popular Culture. Univ. Press of Kentucky.
Ginsberg, Benjamin. et al. 2013. We the People, An Introduction to American Politics. W. W. Norton.
Jones, Charles O. 2016. The American Presidency: A Very Short Introduction. OUP.
Maisel, L. Sandy. 2016. American Political Parties and Elections: A Very Short Introduction. OUP.
Scott, Ian. 2011. American Politics in Hollywood Film. 2nd ed. Edinburgh Univ. Press.

A comprehensive transmedial bibliography/videography, which includes titles that are all available either in our library, via the class lecturer or on the internet, will be provided on Moodle. Making use of these resources will be part of the graded performance (e.g. presidential impulse talks, presidential movie exploration).

All relevant films along with a digital resource package will be available for you at the Self Access Center (SAC). EVERY student is directed & required to obtain and watch (!) all films which are tied to individual assignments in order to successfully participate in the class. Other course material (slideshows, reading assignments, other relevant material etc.) will be made available in digital form on Moodle.




1) Attendance/participation/outreach events/work on Moodle,

2) Presidential impulse talk,

3) Presidential movie exploration,

4) An A1-Poster to be showcased at the Election Day event (tied to impulse talk), 

5) A final essay (contextualization/analysis/discussion of one popular culture artifact)


You will need to achieve a positive grade in ALL pillars of assessment (parts 1-5) in order to receive a passing grade for the class ("sudden death-rule").

Sign up for assignments will be conducted via Doodle surveys (first-come, first-served).


All assignments MUST be submitted via Moodle before the given deadlines. Late submissions of ANY assignments that have a deadline attached to them will generally NOT be accepted once the deadline has passed.
Any case of plagiarism will inevitably lead to immediate expulsion from the class.


Note/Grade Benotungsschema

Position im Curriculum

  • Bachelorstudium Angewandte Kulturwissenschaft (SKZ: 642, Version: 16W.2)
    • Fach: Felder kulturwissenschaftlicher Forschung (Pflichtfach)
      • Medienkulturen ( 0.0h PS / 4.0 ECTS)
        • 200.016 [Enter name here] for President": The mythos of the US presidency through popular culture, and the US presidential elections of 2016 (2.0h PS / 4.0 ECTS)
          Absolvierung im 3., 4., 5., 6. Semester empfohlen
  • Bachelorstudium Angewandte Kulturwissenschaft (SKZ: 642, Version: 09W.3)
    • Fach: Theorie der Kulturwissenschaft und Felder der Kultur (Pflichtfach)
      • Modul: Textualität und Visualität von Kultur
        • 8.1 Textualität und Visualität von Kultur ( 8.0h XX / 16.0 ECTS)
          • 200.016 [Enter name here] for President": The mythos of the US presidency through popular culture, and the US presidential elections of 2016 (2.0h PS / 4.0 ECTS)
  • Besonderer Studienbereich Besonderer Studienbereich Friedensstudien (SKZ: 900, Version: 05S)
    • Fach: Erweiterungsbereich (Freifach)
      • Weitere anrechnungsfähige LVs aus anderen Studienplänen ( 0.0h / 0.0 ECTS)
        • 200.016 [Enter name here] for President": The mythos of the US presidency through popular culture, and the US presidential elections of 2016 (2.0h PS / 4.0 ECTS)
  • Bachelorstudium Geschichte (SKZ: 603, Version: 11W.1)
    • Fach: Freie Wahlfächer (Freifach)
      • Freie Wahlfächer ( 0.0h XX / 18.0 ECTS)
        • 200.016 [Enter name here] for President": The mythos of the US presidency through popular culture, and the US presidential elections of 2016 (2.0h PS / 4.0 ECTS)

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