NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee State Museum will host “Constructing Outbreaks in Tennessee: How Disease Shaped the Volunteer State,” an Oct. 13 free Lunch-and-Learn with Middle Tennessee State University professor Katie Foss, Ph.D., leading a discussion about the history of epidemics and media, with a focus on Tennessee.
This special event will be presented both in-person and online from noon to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, at the Tennessee State Museum, located at 1000 Rosa L. Park Blvd. at Jefferson Street in Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park or at TNMuseum.org/Videos.
Drawing from her recent book, “Constructing the Outbreak: Epidemics in Media and Collective Memory,” Foss will take attendees on a hyperlocal exploration of disease outbreaks that profoundly shaped Tennessee’s history.
From the threat of dysentery and typhoid to Civil War soldiers — to steamboats that brought yellow fever to Memphis — to eruptions of Spanish Flu throughout the state — to rising polio cases that prompted Elizabethton to ban children in public places, the discussion will look at how media of the moment captured public responses.
Historical examples of advertisements for wacky remedies as well as how media conveyed the panic and relief as normal life eventually returned will be among the topics discussed in this lunchtime event.
Foss will share local newspaper articles, ads, and other media artifacts that preserved people’s experiences in past public health emergencies.
Foss is a professor of media studies in the School of Journalism and Strategic Media at MTSU where she teaches courses in health communication and television culture. She holds a doctorate in mass communication from the University of Minnesota and is the author of several publications including “Breast-feeding and Media: Exploring Conflicting Discourses That Threaten Public Health and Television and Health Responsibility in an Age of Individualism.”
She is also editor of “Beyond Princess Culture: Gender and Children’s Marketing” and “Demystifying the Big House: Exploring Prison Experience and Media Representations.”
Numerous national and international media outlets, including The New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, The Washington Post, USA Today, DobréNoviny (Slovakia), Wissenschafts Kommunikation (Germany) and CTV News (Canada) have interviewed Foss and featured her comments on health communications and the COVID-19 pandemic.
— Cathy Sgambati (Cathy.Sgambati@mtsu.edu)