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College of Arts and Sciences

Faculty and Staff

Susan Courtney

Title: Professor
Associate Chair
Department: English Language and Literature
College of Arts and Sciences
Phone: 803-777-3265
Office: HUO, Room 505
Resources: Film and Media Studies Program
English Language and Literature


PhD, Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley


    U.S. screen cultures (from Hollywood to home movies)
   • cultural formations of race, gender, region & nation
    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


My research investigates historical relationships between popular conceptions of identity (especially race, gender, region, and nation) and pervasive forms of film and media culture. My most recent book, Split Screen Nation: Moving Images of the American West and South, investigates the history of divided feelings about the United States and its most paradoxical narratives through the lens of region. In the decades after World War II, the book argues, such feelings animated a persistent if unstable opposition between the screen West and the screen South—one a space-time of collective possibility and triumph, the other of collective abjection (racial, sexual, and otherwise). The book explores this opposition’s repurposing across a range of theatrical and non-theatrical material, including Hollywood Westerns and Southerns (especially Gone with the Wind and Tennessee Williams films), amateur films, films promoting car and bus travel, and atomic test films. While attentive to its archive’s diverse contexts of production and consumption, Split Screen Nation does not jettison close analysis of audiovisual form, but rather seeks to refine the kinds of historical insight we might distill from such analysis.

I’ve also just begun a new book project, tentatively titled Zipcode Media: Audiovisual Archives of Segregation and Its Aftermath. Whereas popular U.S. media culture has routinely invited viewers to understand “racism” as the words and deeds of individual bigots, asserting a form of colorblindness that is especially blind to the institutional histories of racial injustice, this project seeks to investigate and reanimate a very different and mostly ignored set of media artifacts—artifacts that vividly document, and offer much needed ways to register and think concretely about, a range of institutional practices that continue to shape our daily experiences of race, class, and the places in which we live. The artifacts at issue—which include maps, photographs, training films, and early television news footage—were themselves made by, for and/or about some of the key types of institutions that made race in the twentieth century: a federally-sponsored lending agency, a city housing authority, local television stations, schools, and police departments. Contextualizing and closely analyzing media archives of such institutions, the book aims to expand our ways of seeing, knowing, and feeling our systemic histories of racial inequity.


   • 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)