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 storytelling 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.
The class begins next Wednesday. If you are an MIT or Harvard student or any of the other universities who can cross-enroll in MIT courses, I hope to see you in the spring for this course. Otherwise, feel free to use the comments section of this blog to post throughout the semester.