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Department of English Language and Literature


Susan Courtney

Title: Professor and Chair
Department: English Language and Literature
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-7120
Office: HUO, Room 109
Resources: Film and Media Studies Program
English Language and Literature


PhD, Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley


   • U.S. film and media history
   • film and media theory
   • critical race studies
   • gender studies
   • American studies


    Film and Media Analysis
   • Film and Media History
   • Mediating Ferguson, U.S.A.: 1915-2015
   • Race and Media Studies
   • The South on Screen
    Alternative Media/Alternative Communities
    Hollywood in the 1950s & 1960s
    Cowboy Nation: The American West in the Popular Imagination
    The Musical (From Gold Diggers of 1933 to Glee)


   • Best Moving Image Book Award for Split Screen Nation, Kraszna-Krausz Foundation, 2018
   • Provost’s Humanities Grant, 2018
   • Two Thumbs Up Award, Office of Student Disability Services, University of South Carolina, 2016
   • Research Professorship, Department of English, University of South Carolina, 2012
   • Obert C. and Grace A. Tanner Visiting Research Fellow, Tanner Humanities Center, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, 2010-11
   • Provost’s Arts and Humanities Grant, University of South Carolina, 2010
   • Associate Professor Professional Development Award, College of Arts and Sciences, USC, 2009
   • Josephine Abney Award, Women’s Studies Program, University of South Carolina, 2005
   • Outstanding Professor Award, NADA International Student Residence, USC, 2000


As a scholar of U.S. film and media, I’m interested in what media history can teach us about our histories and fictions of race, gender, region, and the nation itself. I have long been interested, especially, in how media shapes collective forms of racial knowledge and memory; but my archives have considerably shifted.

My first book, Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation: Spectacular Narratives of Gender and Race, 1903-1967, investigated popular cinema’s treatment of what it called “miscegenation”—before, during, and after the Production Code defined it as “sex relationship[s] between the black and white races” and forbade it on the big screen.

My most recent book, Split Screen Nation: Moving Images of the American West and South, considers how the history of divided feelings about the United States and its most paradoxical narratives (e.g., “land of the free”/land of slavery, conquest, and segregation) animates a persistent if unstable opposition in the history of U.S. screen culture between the West and the South. Split Screen Nation traces this opposition across a wide range of screen media in the era of Civil Rights and the Cold War, including Hollywood films and television, but also corporate and educational films, amateur films (aka “home movies”), and films of atomic testing in the desert West.

I am currently writing a book entitled ZIP Code Media: Audio-Visual Archives of Segregation and Its Aftermath. Inspired in part by the new, citizen-media archives of systemic injustice (e.g., viral videos documenting police brutality and white civilians policing black bodies in seemingly every conceivable kind of place and space), ZIP Code Media investigates the media history of U.S. institutions that helped make race in the 20th century. Chapters consider, for example, redlining maps made and disseminated by the federal government, the photographic collection of a Jim Crow state park system, and the multimedia projects of a municipal urban renewal agency. The book (1) explains how these materials originally emerged, circulated, and were used; and also (2) aims to repurpose them, for the present, as powerful tools to expand our ways of seeing, knowing, and feeling our collective histories of institutional racism.


   • Split Screen Nation: Moving Images of the American West and South (Oxford UP, 2017)
   • Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation: Spectacular Narratives of Gender and Race, 1903-1967 (Princeton UP, 2005)

   • “Framing the Bomb in the West: the View from Lookout Mountain” in Haidee Wasson and Lee Grieveson, eds., Cinema's Military Industrial Complex (University of California Press, 2018)
   • “From Colormuteness to Interracial Dialogue (A Love Letter to My MF Students),” Flow, vol. 23, no. 6, April 24, 2017
   • “A Pedagogical Experiment in the Era of Black Lives Matter,” Flow, vol. 23, no. 4, February 26, 2017
   • “Mediating Ferguson in Columbia, SC,” Flow, vol. 23, no. 2, November 20, 2016
   • "Ripping the Portieres at the Seams: Lessons from Streetcar on Gone with the Wind" in J. E. Smyth, ed., American Historical Cinema in the Studio Era (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
   • "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner with Eldridge Cleaver and the Supreme Court" in Daniel Bernardi, ed., The Persistence of Whiteness (Routledge, 2008)

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.