The Center for Modern Culture and Media was established in 1987, with Professor of English Robert Scholes as director. Two existing programs, Modern Literature and Society and Semiotic Studies, became part of the new center. The concentration in Modern Culture and Media (called MCM) combines work in a medium of mass communication, as journalism, video, film, and photography, with study of the relationship of media to culture. Professor Roger Henkle, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Center and the founder of the program in Modern Literature and Society, obtained grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to introduce college professors to the field. In 1991, the Center was renamed the Malcolm S. Forbes, Jr. Center for Modern Culture and Media, in consideration of a two million dollar endowment from the Forbes Foundation on August 19, which would have been the seventy-second birthday of Mr. Forbes, received through Forbes’s son Timothy ’76, who had concentrated in semiotics. The Center is located at 155 George Street.
The program in Modern Literature and Society was founded by Professors Roger Henkle and Lewis Perry Curtis and initiated in 1980 under co-directors Curtis and Professor Duncan Smith, who served as chairpersons of the Executive Committee in charge of the program. The scope of the program was described in the University catalogue for 1985-87:
“This interdisciplinary undergraduate program draws upon faculty in History, English, German, French, Slavic Languages, Comparative Literature, Italian, Semiotics, and Afro-American studies. The objective of the program is to study literature, history, and cultural expression in their mutual contexts: to learn how they cross-fertilize each other, how concepts such as ideology and culture emerge, and what assumptions historians and literary critics make about their disciplines. New theory of metahistory, social and ideological analysis of literary texts, discourse, and historiography is applied to fictional and non-fictional works. The period covered is the modern age (1750 to the present), and the cultures are those of Great Britain, and Eastern and Western Europe, with emphasis as well on the interactions between those countries and their former African and Asian Colonies.”
The first undergraduate concentration in the country in Semiotics, the study of signs and systems of communication, was established by the Department of English in 1974 in response to student interest. The program, directed by Professor Robert Scholes, emphasized expression, literature, and the theory of language and literature, and included courses in creative writing, film making, dance, and other methods of communication, as well as some traditional courses in drama, film, criticism, linguistics, and the philosophy of language. There were four concentrators in 1974. The number had risen to seventy when the interdisciplinary Center for Research in Semiotics under the direction of Professor of Slavic Languages Thomas Winner began in 1979. The curriculum emphasizes the verbal media – literature, journalism, speech, drama, video and film. The Art/Semiotics concentration studies the interrelationships between artistic practices and theoretical works. Semiotics chairpersons after Scholes have been Mary Ann Doane and Michael Silverman.