Monthly Archives: April 2013

Where did you come from, intellectually speaking?  Have you ever considered your mental lineages, or your conceptual pre-existence?  There’s more to this inquiry than you might think, and more to thinking than you might ever have inquired about.

This is the second of two linked posts.  Excerpted material, once again, is taken from my 2008 monograph, Thinking About Film (Allyn & Bacon/Longman).

Exercise two: genealogy

Analyzing the criteria we use to pick the movies we see is helpful, and not just for the specific information it provides us.  As the questions listed in the previous post make clear, this inquiry is also a more general exercise in critical thinking, and critical self-analysis.  As with much intellectual life, as with many of the challenges that scholars specifically, and adults generally encounter, this exercise reminds us how many important things we take for granted, and the kind of change that more careful attention can provide, or demand.

We could be a little more thoughtful or careful in the way we choose our entertainment.   We could also be more thoughtful or careful about things that are even more basic and important.

Do you know about genealogy?  Genealogy is concerned with lineage, and with questions of origin.  It is concerned with where we came from, and at least implicitly with the ways that descent forms and affects us.  For the purposes of this exercise, the genealogical project is adapted somewhat.  In addition to familial questions, we are concerned with intellectual and aesthetic lineage.  Where did your brain come from?  From whence your opinions, and preferences?  How do you think, and why?

In the same way that we have actual ancestors, so too are there ancestral events and elements that have helped form you, and the way you relate to and see your world.  Have you ever thought about this?  How did you come to feel and think the way you do?  Who were your most influential philosophical forebears?  What experiences formed your tastes, and how?  What affect have geography, ethnicity, vocation, denomination, class, colour or anything else had on your approach to life, to the arts and, if you like, to film specifically?  Have you ever actually thought about any of these things?

One might spend a very great deal of time on this, and that profitably.  Consider actually doing so.  Make some lists, have some conversations, and add some notes about what you remember, what you have felt and thought about these things: favourite authors, athletes, painters, poets, pets, singers, Sunday School teachers, musicians, mascots; most influential grand/parent, brother/sister, boyfriend/girlfriend, birth/death, art/craft, book/film, sport/team, employment/unemployment, interest/obsession, success/failure, reward/punishment, desire/fear.  Is there a certain idea that somehow embodies you, or that you wish embodied you?  With what event, or person, or character, do you most identify?  What are you most proud, or ashamed of?

An obvious next step would be to take this information about yourself and introduce it into your interactions with friends and family and loved ones generally.  Where did they come from, intellectually or philosophically speaking?  What is most important to them?  Have they actually asked themselves or thought about these things?  Do we really understand each other?

These are the some of the questions that biographers ask, the things that take them beyond mere chronologies, or the mere recitation of events.  These are some of the questions that facilitate analysis, and lead to understanding.  In our own lives we should do more than just think about ourselves, or pursue our own interests.  We should know ourselves.  This is precisely the end of exercises like these: an increased self-knowledge, and probably a desire to forge and strengthen more substantial connections.


People don’t always think things through.  What if they did?  Questions would follow.  Answers even, if they stuck with it, and each person with a different set …

This is the first of two linked posts.  Excerpted material is taken from my 2008 monograph, Thinking About Film (Allyn & Bacon/Longman).

Exercise One: Picking movies

Evaluate the criteria that you use to choose the films that you see.  What are the things that get you in that theatre, or seated before that screen?  There are any number of sources, all at least partly valid, and all with limitations of which we should be aware.  Think of some of those sources: friends and family, grapevines and cooler conversations, commercials and trailers, reviews and awards, the reputation of participants or the subject matter that draws and repels us, the fact that nothing else is on or the rest of the screenings are sold out…

There’s a reasonably thorough list.  What do you make of it?  Have you been aware of these things?  Each component bears and rewards some further contemplation, and all of these questions are important.  Think about the friends that influence your media choices.  What are their interests and ambitions?  What is important to them?  Are they reflective, or thoughtful?  What kind of things do they tend to talk about, and what form does that conversation take?  Do they consider your preferences, whether general and social, or specifically related to media consumption?  Or, do they often try to impose their will upon you?  (We might ask the same question of ourselves!)  Are your friends hasty in judgment, or do they give room for conversation, and contemplation?

The same sorts of questions apply to your families.  What kind of influence do they have on the things that you see, and the way that you see them?  Were there too many Disney movies when you were little, or now that you’re getting big?  Have you given proper thought to how cool a Western can be?  Was the culture of your home broad and deep and expansive, or more pinched than you might have liked it to be?  Are the things that you’re feeling pinched by actually, or at least partly, a manifestation of real principle and scruple?

Are your parents reluctant to let you grow up and make your own choices?  Are they being over-protective?  In your own anxiety to grow up, or to prove that you have already done so, are you recklessly disregarding justifiable parental caution?

We have other sources that inform and motivate us.  These too should be thought through.  Have you ever considered that, as cool as a film trailer or commercial can be, they exist solely to separate you from your money?  An advertisement may well set forth a product’s real virtues, and we may decide that product to be exactly what we want, or need.  But we should think about it a little at first, and be at least a bit skeptical.  The guy selling the thing shouldn’t be the only person we consult about that thing.

How about this: have you ever noticed how some ostensibly critical conversations (reviews of movies and music and other such things) actually resemble product endorsements themselves?  Sometimes writers will try to sell you something, or convince you of something.  And they’ll use the critical object—the film, the CD, the television program—to do so.  This isn’t necessarily bad, but you want to give it some thought.  What might these reviewers be trying to tell you, or sell you?  What is the film itself selling, or the institution that distributes it?  Is it simply a particular style, or genre, or subject matter?  Or is there something more at issue, some philosophy, or lifestyle, or world view?

If you’re using reviewers to help you with your entertainment choices, there’s another possibility to think about.  Film reviews—this is frequently, though not inevitably true in local, small or medium-sized newspapers, or in reviewer generated websites—are often made up of a plot summary, some vaguely articulated or motivated praise/condemnation, and a glib summary that is quite inadequate to the complexity and contradiction of the actual film.  Should we attend to these guys?  Alternatively, when the reviews are more thorough, do we consider the nature of the review, or the experience and methodology of the reviewer?

As for awards, have you noticed that sometimes they also have a definite commercial or ideological component?  Aren’t they sometimes part of a selling strategy?  The way that film and television industries celebrate themselves has much to do with bottom lines, since the practitioners that give and receive accolades have a great interest in your patronage.  And beyond selling, don’t those awards and awards show have a lot to say about partisan politics, or national agendas, or a certain take on geopolitical reality?  We should attend to and enjoy and be wary of these conversations.

All of these questions, and others that we might add about a number of other categories, come down to the same basic things.  They should make us think.  What predilections, pressures and thought processes cause you to choose one film and not another?  How do those film choices relate to bigger, deeper, more important things?  Have you thought about it all?  Shouldn’t you do so?

We might extend this exercise a little further.  Having thought about the criteria with which you choose things, select a film that you have recently seen, and evaluate it on the basis of those criteria.  Then reflect.  Based on your experience with this particular film, how are your criteria working?  Do they lead you to the information that you need?  Do they consistently provide you with substantial and enjoyable film experiences?

Experiments like this should not be undertaken as simple exercises in self-affirmation.  We should push ourselves.  To some degree, with regard to our media choices, we are all probably lacking in discernment or discipline or courage.  We will want to take aim here at our permissiveness or excess of caution, our sloppiness or smugness or slavery to convention.  All this boils down to a culminating question: is there a way for me to make better, more careful media choices?

Here’s the transcript of a speech I gave at the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications convocation, April 26, 2013.

A Liberal Arts Degree and the Second Great Commandment

Good morning, students, staff and faculty, family and friends.  I’m glad to be here, and I’m honoured to be able to share a few thoughts with you.  It’s a happy day, and a worrisome one too.  You’re wondering about a couple of things.  Like am I, or is my loved one ever going to find a job in this field?  Can I, can my loved one, remain true while pursuing these worldly professions?

These are very good questions.  You’re familiar with descriptions in 2nd Timothy, and in the Book of Alma, and all over the great sacred texts of the great sacred traditions, of the terrible iniquity that abounds in the world, of the peril, and of the pressing urgent necessities that arise as a result.

John Bunyan, the great 17th century Puritan writer, lays it out for us in his tremendous, towering book, The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Bunyan is concerned with our making safe passage through this lone and dreary world, and returning to our Heavenly Home.  He describes the traps and snares that await us as we go.  There is a city, he says, called Vanity, and a fair kept there, called Vanity Fair …

“… a fair … (that lasts) all the year long: (where) are … sold … houses, lands, trades, places, honours, preferments, titles, countries, kingdoms—lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts, as whores, bawds … masters, servants, lives, blood, bodies, souls, silver (and) gold …”

People pick on theatre and film and TV, on music and the visual arts and such, but Bunyan’s comprehensive list suggests that all of your various professions and occupations might be just as morally dangerous.  But it’s probably fair to say that he would have found the narrative arts, and all of the entertainment industries, to be particularly bad.

“And, moreover, at this fair there is at all times to be seen juggling, cheats, games, plays, fools … knaves, and rogues, and that of every kind.  Here are to be seen, too, and that for nothing, thefts, murders, adulteries, false swearers, and that of a blood-red colour.”

Amusing ourselves to death.  Is that what you were worried about, parents?  You know, these days there really are a lot of jobs available in these various industries.  However this description, not to mention your own experiences with a lot of worldly things, might make you wonder if they’re even worth your while.  Bunyan didn’t think so.

“(H)e that will go to the Celestial city, and yet not go through this town, must needs go out of the world.”

Modern scriptures confirm that view: “Go ye out from among the wicked.  Save yourselves.  Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord.”  (D&C 38: 42.)

Pretty clear, pretty unequivocal.  Pretty discouraging!  Why did you guys pick this major?  Well, hold on.  That’s not all there is to it.  Let me tell you a story.  Once, years ago, we had a student who was going to study film, and then decided not to.  That’s cool.  His reasons were very cool.  He’d been thinking.  He wanted to do what was right.  More than anything, he wanted to live the first great commandment.  He wanted to love God with all his heart and soul, with all his mind and strength.

Now this young man liked film, but he’d been noticing, really feeling that film, and books, and the humanities generally, took him away from this first great commandment.  All these flawed people, in constant conflict, constantly behaving in inappropriate ways.  My young friend wanted to honour and worship God.  He wanted to study something that would allow him to contemplate God’s righteous works, and maybe, humbly, add unto them.  Eventually he changed his major, and went into the sciences.  I don’t mean that at all sarcastically.  Bless him, and I’ll bet he’s done really well.

It seems clear, doesn’t it?  It sounds good.  We go out from among the wicked.  We save ourselves.  And when we do the Lord makes us to lie down in green pastures, and leads us beside still waters.  He restores our souls, leads us in paths of righteousness, and through the valley of the shadow of death, and to gardens watered by running streams in which we will abide in peace forever.

That’s so very beautiful, so surpassing sweet.  Here’s a thing, though.  Not only does the 23rd Psalm describe this blessed state, to which we all aspire.  I want to point out that that description is also blessed, and it is a great blessing too.  Hurray for science.  But that was art.  God measures and calculates, but he’s also a poet.  Our college deals with divinity too.

You may have noticed that I just sneaked a phrase from the Koran into my paraphrase of the 23rd Psalm.  Many of the people here are members of the LDS church.  I am speaking, in a sense, from an LDS perspective, but I want to do so in an inclusive way.  We just recently had an LDS General Conference.  In that conference Elder Russell Nelson, a member of our quorum of twelve apostles, repeated a very familiar refrain.  He was talking about missionary work, and how we need to do it.  He said that we should invite people to bring the truths they have and hold dear, and that we’ll add to them.  I wonder if LDS people have thought that through sufficiently.  I wonder if we realize that this almost certainly means that people will be bringing truths that we haven’t yet discovered or considered.  I wonder if we realize that even if people don’t come to us, they still have and hold tremendous truths of which we’ve not been aware, and that we would do well to learn about.

This is where the core curriculum of a liberal arts education comes in.  Some of you folks have been worrying about the things your youngsters have been studying.  Well, be reassured.  So very much of the world’s curriculum is not worldly at all.  Read The Analects and The Apology, The Republic and The Nicomachean Ethics, The Confessions and The Koran, The Imitation of Christ and Concerning Christian Liberty.  These, and so many other things besides will not only make us more literate, but more righteous.

Yeah, you’ll say.  But what about permissive modern entertainment?  Okay.  See what you think of this.

I. The Beatles, In My Life, harmonium break.

(Each piece of media can be found, end to end, right here:

My parents bought me a copy of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul for my sixth birthday.  I loved it then.  Still do.  That beautiful sped-up piano break that we just heard has almost mythological heft for me.  It reaches really far down, and resonates mightily.  There is historical and aesthetical substance to this music.  The Beatles are really great, for all sorts of reasons.  But more, for me this material bespeaks care and kindness and, yes, righteousness.  Righteousness?  From those backsliding long-hairs?

Well yes, actually.  I want to share a deep conviction here.  The whole Judeo-Christian journey is rooted in a difficult and blessed paradox, a reconcilable double mandate.  You’re all familiar with the challenging terms.  They’re also blessed ones.  Eat not the fruit.  Multiply and replenish the earth.  Here at school, immerse yourselves in your studies, and at the same time devote yourselves to your covenants.  These are oppositions that needn’t lead to enmity, or moral conflict.  Rather, they can be peacefully resolved, even combined.  We try to do two good and contradictory things, simultaneously, and it works out.  With regard to today’s topic, this means that you go out from among the wicked at the same time that you embrace and rejoice in the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants, and the 13th article of faith, and your arts and humanities degrees!

That means we don’t just read our standard works, or circumspect things by a few non-members.  We read, widely, searchingly!  The Bacchae, and The Birth of TragedyBlack Elk SpeaksNightThe PlagueMy Land and My People.  We’ll be challenged.  We’ll be okay!

Let me demonstrate all this visually, with a few film clips.  I have agonized a bit about whether I should show you this.  You are not initiated.  You may not understand the niceties, the subtleties of higher cinematical education.  You have not, frankly, paid your dues.  But you have paid a lot of tuition money.  You may even be donors.  So, despite your lack of preparation, I have finally felt to share this with you.  Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, the greatest moment in film history:

II. Opening, A Hard Day’s Night.

A G major 7th chord, with the fourth note sustained.  George falls down.  Ringo trips over him.  John laughs his head off.  There is a profound theme here, a profound lesson.  It is that you should never run with your hands in your pockets.  Also, do not tailgate. Further, this is the exquisite mid-point between those two profundities of artistic production and human expression, between notation and improvisation, between planning your shot, and then being open to the happy accidents, the unsuspected, unexpected profundities that life and art both bring us.

You can learn from films.  Actually, this may be the greatest moment in film history.

III. Crash, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.  (Post “Tequila,” a motorcycle accident…))

Here is more truth, meaning, beauty.  From this we learn never to ride motorcycles, or date boys that wear goatees.  There’s also this:

IV. Blockheads, Laurel & Hardy.  An incident with a football.  

See?  You can learn from films.  All that was worldly.  All that is, for me, wonderful.  The first great commandment says that we should love God.  Pres. David McKay used to emphasize that the great intercessory prayer, as contained in the gospel of John, chapter 17, told us how to do so.  How can we properly love and honour God?  Well, to love and honour him, we must know him, and Jesus Christ, whom he sent.  And how do we do so?  By living, as much as we possibly can, like them.  By being righteous.

That’s the first thing, and it comes first.  But it’s not the only thing, and my young scientifical friend that I just told you about only had it half right, which sort of means that he had it wrong.  I’ll bet you noticed that he neglected an important part of the big, eternal picture.  And the second commandment is like unto it.  Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  God is the great, righteous creator, and we are his greatest creation.  We can’t live the first commandment without devoting ourselves to the second.  And the arts help us in our desires to do both.

The parable of the Good Samaritan has got to be about the world’s greatest story.  We quote and celebrate it, and in doing so we sometimes miss one of its most basic and challenging points.  The seminary teacher, the high councilman and the member of the stake presidency walked right on past the man in desperate need.  The sinner, or, more pointedly, the good man from a tradition that we depreciate, was in the right.  Jesus knew what he was doing.  Think of the Woman at the Well.  He’d said, and Israel knew, that Samaritan theology was an utter mess, even apostate.  Which means that Jesus made an infidel the moral centre of Christianity’s most emblematic story.

So much of our discourse, practically all of our discourse is devoted to how bad the world is.  That’s true.  That’s not true.  I have a question for you.  What happens if we apply, carefully and with all our hearts, John 17 logic to the second great commandment?  We come to know your neighbours through their good works, and then we grow to love them.  Your graduates have been learning about their brothers and sisters, who so often say and do such unutterably edifying things.  And sometimes they sorrow, or stumble, and we have been learning how to respond carefully and ministeringly to that too.  Your graduate’s studies have helped them to know mankind.  Love, empathy and charity have followed upon that knowledge like the dews distilling.  The books and plays and films act as proxies, and they make us better ministers when we go out a-searching, and serving.

Isn’t that right students?  One more example, me concluding with this exquisite, tender, magisterial scene from Jacques Tati’s 1953 French film, M. Hulot’s Holiday (the little boy and the ice cream cones):

In addition to reminding us how very much we can learn from a man who flaunts the BYU dress and grooming code, this masterful bit of duration and suspense is a perfect, exquisite illustration of fraternity, of dauntless courage in the face of the void, of the second great commandment, not to mention of how a little child shall lead us.  It would be so fun to elaborate, but we’re out of time.  What I want to say is that this is the kind of thing we do around here.  It’s also, more importantly, the world, and it’s really nothing to be afraid of.  This is so beautiful, deep, challenging, true.  This is the kind of thing that will make you go out and do likewise, or to go and sin no more.

Will you guys be able to find jobs?  I’ll bet you will, in something or other.  It all tends to work out, doesn’t it?  Also, folks, you are worried about your children, and about the wicked world, and the corrupted and corrupting components of all of these media industries.  You should be, but not only, and not exclusively.  Again, there is more of good, of decency, of sweetness and regard and love, than you’ll ever have time for.  Let’s key on that, and stop worrying so much.

Our lives will be preserved and our souls will be saved if we live and obey the First Great Commandment, and the Second that is like unto it.  Our lives will be preserved and our souls will be saved if we keep current the two emblems of these respective commitments, our temple recommends and our library cards.  Best wishes, dear graduates, friends and family members, brothers and sisters.  Thank you, bless you, and God bless us all.

Another essay from The Encyclopedia of the Documentary Film, ed. Ian Aitken, Routledge, 2005.  This one is about a great man, a great writer, a great book, and a few other things besides.

Erik Barnouw (1908-2001) was a Netherlands born, American raised media scholar and historian.  He was also a creator of media, working in many capacities and over a long period of time in the production of both commercial and educational material.  With his broad and varied backgrounds, Barnouw was able to consistently combine and reconcile the sometimes or seeming poles of production and research, activity and reflection, private and public.  As a program founder at Columbia University, Barnouw was instrumental in establishing media studies as an academic discipline.  He was also central in disseminating the insights of the academy beyond its boundaries, both through his own extensive, popularly accessible publication, as well as by establishing and serving as the first head of the U.S. Library of Congress’s media division.

Barnouw’s life and work touch the documentary film at a number of important and instructive points.  His most obvious contribution is the book Documentary, (1974, revised 1983 and 1993), a seminal history of the form which continues to serve as its ideal introduction. The book was undertaken in part as a response to two prevailing perspectives, essential to a proper rendering of the documentary landscape, but tending to obscure the full view because of their very predominance.  These were Western bias (as in Rotha), and an anecdotal or editorial approach to both events and their implication (Jacobs, Rosenthal).  In preparing his work Barnouw’s approach was to situate the subjective, the practitioners’ accounts and the perspectives of power, within a broader context, applying historical methodology and theoretical awareness to the telling of the tale.

Documentary remains exemplary for its combination of clarity and complexity, for the accessible way it sets forth the multifarious and often contradictory events and issues relating to the non-fiction film.  It also manages a more difficult and more affecting reconciliation, which is that it balances scholarly rigour with real generosity.  For Barnouw the documentary idea, at a basic conceptual and historical level, seeks not only social justice but also, to use the term in a particular sense, charity.   With this conviction, Barnouw tempered clear and vigourous criticism with a sympathy that takes into account both inadequacy and accomplishment, good desires along with disappointments.

Barnouw’s sympathetic attitude is partly rooted in his experience as a practitioner, and the fact that his production activities (advertising, radio scripts, instructional and educational material, government propaganda, documentary films) far predated his work as a media scholar and historian.  A career broadcaster responsible for the definitive history of American broadcasting, the first president of the International Film (Flaherty) Seminars who became the champion of his documentary associates, Barnouw demonstrated how direct connection with and descent from the subjects of study need not compromise that study.

That Barnouw could meld intimacy with effective scholarship had much to do with his disposition, and also with the circumstances in which it operated.  Many of film history’s most notable artist/scholars (Eisenstein, Vertov/Delluc, Dulac/Grierson) worked in revolutionary or critically precocious, film-industrially unstable contexts, where the avant garde had (at least briefly) official approval, or where experimentation could be fostered.  This ground was conducive to the cultivation of firebrands, of temporarily autonomous auteurs with ideas that they wished to urge over other alternatives, and the means to carry out those ideas.  Here was the kind of partisanship, occasionally even the self-absorption and distortion that historians are supposed to temper or even counter.

Although Barnouw’s most celebrated and significant documentary production is the magisterial Hiroshima-Nagasaki 1945 (1970), made in collaboration with Akira Iwasaki, the majority of his production work, at least in the first decades of his career, did not reach or even attempt such heights.  At first, and for a long time, Barnouw worked as a foot soldier in hierarchical, infrastructural and/or entrepreneurial settings that did not value or even allow revolutionary innovation.  As a cog in the wheels Barnouw developed, perforce, patience and perspective.  Not incidentally, these are historians’ virtues.  Knowing what it was not only to act, but also to be acted upon, Barnouw managed something that has proved to be very difficult for artist/scholars.  He observed and participated in history, developing from the experience an insider’s authority while still maintaining the long view.  This is at least partly that contingency and uncertainty and ambiguity are central to the evolution of and the nature of things.  This is also that though flaws and errors complicate, they do not necessarily invalidate, still a salutary notion in the frequently fractious atmosphere of modern non-fiction discourse.  With all of these convictions, Barnouw easily avoided the temptations of theoretical advocacy or vicious giant killing.  Instead he pursued a course both more objective and more kindly, laying out theoretical alternatives, and the historical factors that gave rise to, that limited, and that justified them.

Erik Barnouw’s critical openness leads to a final point, which is that he made a great contribution to documentary culture by exceeding, or more accurately by extending the boundaries often imposed upon it.  As a survey of the publications reveals, his historical and critical work ranged very widely.  He spoke authoritatively about social activity and a number of the arts, as well as of the various media through which their effects were disseminated.  In this he accomplished a kind of scholarly horizontal integration, to which he added an unusual, essential vertical element.

Barnouw was interested in and illuminated the ancestry of current forms and conditions.  With his interdisciplinary and chronological range, his synchronic and diachronic reach, he could expose key, clarifying connections between diverse times and places.  (Some of this must be ascribed to the beneficent influence of Barnouw’s father, Adriaan, a distinguished linguist, translator, anthologist, scholar and teacher, whose work concentrating primarily on his native Netherlands.  Through him Erik early understood, among other things, how the documentary idea could be manifest in the didacticism of a medieval morality play, in Dutch and Flemish genre painting, or in the development of vernacular poetry.)  The result was real, unstrained coherence, notwithstanding apparent great gulfs in time and discipline and geography.

As a communications scholar Erik Barnouw laboured extensively in a most public and popular field, and in its diversity he consistently came back to consider the non-fiction film and the documentary idea.  He believed in documentary’s leavening powers, and in the poles he mediated, the binaries that he reconciled, he showed that documentary research and production can not be separated from educational impulse, from citizenly activity and activism.  For Barnouw the documentary idea was not simply an object of study or an abstraction.  Rather, it was a call to citizenship, encouraging and enabling journalists and filmmakers and broadcasters, academics and teachers and students to extend personal lines into public discourse, private interest into positive public action.

Further reading:

Barnouw, Adriaan, Coming After: an Anthology of Poetry from the Low Countries, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1948

Barnouw, Adriaan, Monthly Letters: On the Culture and History of the Netherlands, Assen: Van Gorcum, 1969

Barnouw, Erik and Krishnaswamy, Subrahmanyam, Indian Film, New York: Oxford University Press, 1963 (revised, 1980)

Barnouw, Erik, A History of Broadcasting in the United States, New York: Oxford University Press, 1966-70

Barnouw, Erik, Documentary: a History of the Non-Fiction Film, New York: Oxford University Press, 1974 (revised, 1983, 1993)

Barnouw, Erik, Tube of Plenty: the Evolution of American Television, New York: Oxford University Press, 1975 (revised 1982, 1990)

Barnouw, Erik, ed., International Encyclopedia of Communications, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1989

Barnouw, Erik, Media Marathon: a Twentieth Century Memoir, Durham: Duke University Press, 1996

Barnouw, Erik, Media Lost and Found, New York: Fordham University Press, 2001

Jacobs, Lewis, The Documentary Tradition: From Nanook to Woodstock, New York: Hopkinson and Blake, 1971

Rosenthal, Alan, The New Documentary in Action: a Casebook in Filmmaking, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971

Rotha, Paul, Documentary Film, London: Faber and Faber, 1952 (revised 1963, 1968

Zimmerman, Patricia R., and Bradley, Ruth, A Festschrift in Honor of Erik Barnouw, Wide Angle, volume 20, number 2, University of Ohio, April, 1998