Topics in Comparative Media: American Pro Wrestling >> Content Detail



Amazon logo Help support MIT OpenCourseWare by shopping at! MIT OpenCourseWare offers direct links to to purchase the books cited in this course. Click on the Amazon logo to the left of any citation and purchase the book from, and MIT OpenCourseWare will receive up to 10% of all purchases you make. Your support will enable MIT to continue offering open access to MIT courses.

Class Description

This class will explore the cultural history and media industry surrounding the masculine drama of professional wrestling. Beginning with wrestling's roots in sport and carnival, the class examines how new technologies and changes in the television industry led to evolution for pro wrestling style and promotion and how shifts in wrestling characters demonstrate changes in the depiction of American masculinity. The class will move chronologically in an examination of how wrestling characters and performances have changed, focusing particularly on the 1950s to the present. Students may have previous knowledge of wrestling but are not required to, nor are they required to be a fan (although it is certainly not discouraged, either).

In addition to scholarship and journalistic accounts of wrestling events and personalities, the class will also feature documentaries and an examination of pro wrestling performances through the years. Scholars who have researched and written about pro wrestling, such as Henry Jenkins and Sharon Mazer, will join the class throughout the semester, in addition to guests from the wrestling industry, such as former WWE World champion Mick Foley, the voice of the WWE "J. R." Jim Ross, Harvard graduate Chris Nowinski, and others.

The hope of this course is to foster an understanding as to how new technologies and media formats have changed the course of pro wrestling through the years and also how pro wrestling's styles and methods of story telling have changed through the decades. This class is both about the athletic demonstrations of actual pro wrestling matches and the constructions of the characters and stories that surround those exhibitions.

Viewing Materials

Many viewing materials will be watched as a class throughout the semester. If a student misses a class session, they are recommended to borrow the viewing from the instructor. Also, students are expected to watch a current wrestling show a few times during the semester. WWE has three shows: WWE RAW, Monday 9 PM to 11 PM on USA; ECW, Tuesday, 10 PM to 11 PM on Sci-Fi; and Friday Night Smackdown, 8 PM to 10 PM on the CW Network.

One important point for in-class viewing: much of the semester will feature watching various wrestling performances. As is the case with fans of wrestling, whether live or televised, students are encouraged to talk during our in-class viewing of these products. There is a heavy amount of in-class viewing throughout the semester, but viewing and discussion is not meant to be mutually exclusive in this case.

Reading Materials

The required texts for this course are the following:

Amazon logo Assael, Shaun, and Mike Mooneyham. Sex, Lies, and Headlocks. New York, NY: Crown, 2002. ISBN: 9780609606902.

Amazon logo Foley, Mick. Foley is Good and the Real World is Faker than Wrestling. New York: Reagan Books, 2001. ISBN: 9780061032417.

Amazon logo Sammond, Nicholas, ed. Steel Chair to the Head. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005. ISBN: 9780822334385.

Amazon logo Molinaro, John. The Top 100 Pro Wrestlers of All Time. Toronto, Canada: Winding Stair Press, 2002. ISBN: 9781553663058.

Amazon logo Anderson, Ole. Inside Out: How Corporate America Destroyed Professional Wrestling. Hendersonville, TN: Crowbar Press, 2003. ISBN: 9780974554501.

Also, students are expected to read through the Wrestling Observer on a weekly basis through out the semester and must use relevant information from that journalistic account of current events in wrestling for the class blog assignment and also for relevant in-class discussion. The news letter is also intended to be a rich resource for the term paper as well. Students may purchase a semester subscription to the Observer, with subscription information to be e-mailed. The library also has copies of the weekly newsletter.

Attendance Policy

There will be none. Students must attend regularly to complete the assignments.

Class Assignments

Class blog50%
Term paper30%
In-class participation20%

Class Blog

One of the major undertakings of the class will be a class blog, which will be public through Blogger. Each member of the class is expected to write a minimum of two new posts each week (a few paragraphs in length) and make a minimum of four comments (of at least one paragraph) to the posts of colleagues each week. Graduate students will be required to write three blog post each week and make a minimum of five comments. These updates cannot all be done in one setting. This is not meant to be a burden but rather the most significant part of the class and is where I see the majority of the class' potential in lying. Think of this as a conversation, and please use the blog as such.

The intent of the class blog is to foster a continuous discussion about reading materials, in-class viewings, points made by guest lecturers, and information from the current wrestling product and Wrestling Observer. Because there is not substantial time for discussion of all materials in class, students are expected to show familiarity with readings and with out-of-class viewings and the Observer through this discussion. The blog will also serve as an outlet for further discussions of viewings, since class time will not always allow for full discussion of what we have seen. Also, students will write about characters they choose to profile on the blog for each wrestling era.

The current plan is to make this blog public. While our discussions may be some what insular in that it will be focused around the readings and viewings we are currently immersed in as a class, interested members from the general public may read students comments. If anyone is uncomfortable with this public aspect of the blogosphere, please let me know. Such a class blog about pro wrestling will not likely attract massive traffic but could generate some interest from interested individuals.

Term Paper

The class is intentionally most reading-heavy in the first half of the semester, to give students a background in the history and development of pro wrestling and to allow more time for working on the term paper through out the second half of the term. Reading materials, in-class viewings, and guests are all meant to provide potential sources and further avenues of research for the class.

Students are expected to have picked a topic by Ses #11, and to schedule a meeting time with me during the next two weeks. A proposal for the paper is due by Ses #17. An outline or equivalent writing sample is due by Ses #23. Students are expected to meet with me a second time before deadline. Students are more than welcome to turn in aversion of the paper early for feedback and may do so throughout the term if so motivated. However, the final version of the term paper is due by Ses #39. The term paper shall be approximately 11-15 pages for undergraduates and 15-20 pages for graduate students. Meeting the deadlines of the term paper is reflected in the overall grade.

The term paper may be on any topic as long as it is approved through discussion with the instructor. The intent is for students to be able to bring their own expertise and interests into the course and apply them to this study of pro wrestling. A wide variety of topics, analytical angles, and writing styles are acceptable if used effectively.

In-Class Participation

While there is a large amount of in-class viewing scheduled throughout the semester, the intent is for continuous discussion. The idea is that in-class discussion will both drive further debate in the blog and can also incorporate reaction to what classmates have written in the blog. Often, the intent of in-class discussions will be reactions to guest speakers, viewings, or readings, but can also include material from the current product or the Observer.

Official WWE Involvement

World Wrestling Entertainment has taken an active interest in this course and are sending a few guest speakers up throughout the course of the semester. The intent is for the class to provide a link with WWE, in that they are interested in the trajectory of our research throughout the semester, as well as our term paper projects. WWE is particularly interested in better understanding their fans and their fans' relationship with the WWE product and are interested in conversing with us on this account. Throughout the semester, there may be times for class discussion or debate through e-mail regarding questions posed by the WWE. All interaction with the WWE is voluntary on students' part and is not mandatory for graded coursework.

Writing and Communication Center

The Writing and Communication Center offers you free professional advice from published writers about oral presentations and about all types of academic, creative, and professional writing.

Note on Plagiarism

Plagiarism - use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement - is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available in the Writing and Communication Center, in the Stata Center, and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism located at: Citing and Using Sources.


© 2009-2020, All Rights Reserved.
Higher Ed Space ® is a registered trademark of AmeriCareers LLC.