Elizabeth Nathanson

Associate Professor, Media & Communication
Department Chair
Media & Communication
Walson Hall


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  • Ph.D., M.A., Northwestern University
  • B.A., Haverford College

Teaching Interests

I teach courses in popular culture, gender and media, television history and celebrity studies. How do we take the stories and images found on the screens that constantly surround us and better understand how they shape our world? What can we learn about the values held by our culture from analyzing such seemingly frivolous popular culture artifacts such as a reality TV show or fashion blog? What kinds of people do we see? What kinds of activities are celebrated? Who has power and who does not? The media are all around us. Whether we love the media or hate the media, I believe it is our responsibility to understand how the media inform our lives.

I believe teaching media & communication studies is an engaging collaboration between people, ideas and popular culture. Teaching at Muhlenberg encourages such collaboration through small, discussion-oriented classes and student-led discovery. In my classes we watch, read about and create media, all with an eye towards becoming more critical media consumers and producers.

Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests

My research is focused on representations of femininity in popular culture. I study popular media, namely texts that appear to represent historical and sociological conditions that also appeal to audiences. To this end, I study media about women with the goal to analyze how femininity and gender inequalities are recreated in popular culture. While I approach these texts with the perspective that they reflect dominant, mainstream beliefs, I also believe strongly in respecting, not denigrating, the unique pleasures they offer and exploring the possibilities for resistance that those pleasures may contain.

Some of the topics I have written about include representations of housework on TV cooking programs such as “30 Minute Meals,” the depiction of women’s creative labor on fashion blogs and the rise and significance of cupcakes in popular culture. My scholarship is enriched by other disciplines, fields as diverse as media studies, film studies, sociology, economics, history and philosophy. My research is particularly informed by my experiences in the classroom. I have also edited a collection of essays about teaching film and media studies at liberal arts colleges.

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