Media Transatlantic Banner  

Listen to/download audio only (.mp3)
Sean Franzel (Columbia, MO)  The Lecture: A Case Study in the Intermediality of Academic Instruction 

From early modern scholarly oratory to the streaming of university lectures online, the lecture has been both a central mode of knowledge transmission and a telling lens through which to track the intermediality of academic communication. The perception and practice of extended speech directed at a group of listeners/readers/viewers have been central to theories of pedagogy, media, and interpersonal interaction up to the present day. Indeed, the scholarly lecture has historically been thought (alternatively or concomitantly) to spread canonical doctrine; manifest the physical presence of original thought; make manuscripts available to audiences unable to purchase them; allow new kinds of virtual publics to emerge distinct from campus life; call ideal political communities into being, and more. In this context, I argue that rich and divergent accounts of the lecture’s status across orality, print, radio, and the internet reveal how societies imagine the social and cultural functions of the scholar/scientist, a figure who paradigmatically organizes information across a variety of media. The paper I am proposing for the “Media Transatlantic” conference will explore how the lecture becomes a site where differences between media are negotiated. Whether in romantic experiments in printing lecture series or in Heidegger’s pronouncement in his Introduction to Metaphysics lectures that “das Gesprochene spricht nicht mehr im Gedruckten” (“the spoken no longer speaks in the printed”), whether in Adorno’s critique of “mass media” even while broadcasting lectures on the radio or television or in contemporary debates about replacing face-to-face instruction with online courses, I am interested in how the scene of the lecture repeatedly serves as a key point of reference in theorizing the movement of scholarly discourse between media. The lecture is of particular interest because it shares certain features with dissemination through print and other media, for listeners/readers do not respond to the lecturer/author in kind. Indeed, this feature stands out to theorists and practitioners of the lecture: addressing a group of silent listeners is often seen to stand in a homologous relationship to engaging audiences through print, radio, or internet streaming. In this way, my examination of divergent configurations of the lecture (primarily in the German context from 1800 to the present) will enable new comparative perspectives on how North American and German media theorists such as Kittler, McLuhan, Ong, and others deal with related issues of medial competency, pedagogy, and socialization. This paper builds on the findings of my current book project (entitled Fictions of Dialogue: the Pedagogy, Politics, and Media of the Romantic Lecture), which looks at how the lecture is privileged around 1800 in the pedagogical and media-theoretical debates at the heart of German romanticism and idealism. I am currently an Assistant Professor of German at the University of Missouri (, and have published on media and pedagogy around 1800 as well as on configurations of the mediality of scholarly discourse in contemporary debates about the humanities.