Gerry Canavan

the smartest kid on earth

‘Watching Television’ Syllabus 1.0

with 5 comments

To be a bit more specific, I’ve been crazy busy today putting together the final version of my “Watching Television” syllabus—because summer session already begins tomorrow already. (Already!) After hearing good things at a pedagogy workshop I decided to experiment this summer with “communal syllabus construction,” which is why the “genre study” section of the course is still TBA; my students will fill out a survey tomorrow that will help me direct these readings towards their particular interests.

I’m also trying to make use of TV happening now, which is why the Lost finale, the American Idol finale, and the World Cup will all be objects of study.

Big thanks again for your suggestions; I wound up using more of them than I expected (and plan to use more still once I know exactly which shows we’ll be working with in the middle weeks of the course).

W May 19
Introduction to the course
Bernard McGrane, “Zen Sociology: The Un-TV Experiment” (handout)

Th May 20
Television Theory
John Ellis, “Broadcast TV as Sound and Image” (Bb)
Stuart Hall, “Encoding, Decoding” (Bb)

M May 24
Ways of Watching
Lost series finale (at home, 5/23)
Ron Lembo, “A Typology of Television Use” (Bb)
Lynn Spigel, “Television in the Family Circle” (Bb)
Guy Debord, excerpts from The Society of the Spectacle (Bb)
Economist, “The Lazy Medium: How People Really Watch Television” (Web)

T May 25
Debates about TV
Theodor Adorno, “How to Look at Television” (Bb)
Marshall McLuhan, excerpts from The Gutenberg Galaxy and Understanding Media (Bb)

Th May 27
Audiences, Fans, Participants
American Idol season finale (at home, 5/26)
Dale Peck, “Production Values” (Web)
Henry Jenkins, “Get a Life” (Bb)
Will Brooker, excerpts from Batman Unmasked (Bb)

M May 31

T June 1
‘Sophisticated’ Audiences: Television Style
Jim Collins, “Television and Postmodernism” (Bb)
David Foster Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” (Bb)
Steven Johnson, “Television,” Everything Bad Is Good for You (Bb)

Th June 3
Mad Men 2.3, “The Benefactor” (in-class viewing)
John Corner, “Adworlds” (Bb)
Raymond Williams, “Advertising: The Magic System” (Bb)
Jean Baudrillard, “Absolute Advertising, Ground-Zero Advertising” (Bb)
Chuck Klosterman, “It Will Shock You How Much It Never Happened” (Bb)

GENRE STUDY (specific shows and readings to be announced)
M June 7 – Th June 17

M June 21
International Television and U.S. Television Overseas
Timothy J. Havens, “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Cosby Show and the Ascent of U.S. Sitcoms in the Global Television Marketplace” (Bb)
Gary R. Edgerton, “Tune in Locally, Watch Globally: The Future of Television in the Age of the Internet” (Bb)
Fredric Jameson, “Globalization and Political Strategy” (Web)

T June 22
TV Against TV
Dollhouse 1.6, “Man on the Street” (in-class viewing)
Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” (Bb)
Jack Patrick Rodgers, Dollhouse: A Post Mortem” (Web)

Th June 24

M June 28
Final Paper Mini-Presentations

Th July 1

Written by gerrycanavan

May 19, 2010 at 2:20 am

5 Responses

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  1. Looks awesome. The absence of Neil Postman is a crime against academia. How could you deprive your students thus?

    Bill Simmon

    May 19, 2010 at 6:26 am

  2. Postman may get worked into the genre section. I still have his book in my giant pile.


    May 19, 2010 at 10:11 am

  3. Technopoly is worth checking out as well. I haven’t read his book focused on TV but within Technopoly there’s a ton of information. I finished it the week before I took my writing quals as an undergrad, and got the best possible score on the exam. Really it’s because of that book.

    All of that said, he ends up admitting he’s a Luddite which is disappointing considering the depth of his investigation. A large chapter of which is the history of advertising and print media.


    May 20, 2010 at 9:17 pm

  4. […] caught a bit of a break in assigning Guy Debord in my “Watching Television” class the day after the Lost finale extravaganza, which I’d asked my students to watch […]

  5. […] Weird collisions between the content of my summer course and links I find on Gravity Lens: A Brief History of Batman-Themed Pornography. Not safe for […]

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