The course focuses on the effects the implementation of the telephone presumably had on society. In the US of the late 19th and early 20th centuries the introduction of the telephone was repeatedly linked with a perceived crisis of intimate communication. On this topic there has been a significant production of historiographic literature. The first part of the seminar is dedicated to the reading and joint discussion of several such key texts.
Ideas of the telephone as a means of intimate or seemingly intimate communication can be dated back to the end of the 19th century in most western societies. In the US, similar representations accompanied the establishment of the telephone as a means of intimate communication throughout the 20th century. Thus, the real or imagined effects of telephony can be found in a wide array of media contexts, ranging from newspapers to literature and film. The examples chosen for this course will be available to the students beforehand.