The subtitle of the course for the spring 2003 term is "American Television: A Cultural History."
A cultural approach to television's evolution as a technology and system of representation. Considers television as a system of storytelling and myth-making, and as a cultural practice, studied from anthropological, literary, and cinematic perspectives. Focuses on prime-time commercial broadcasting, the medium's technological and economic history, and theoretical perspectives. Much required viewing as well as readings in media theory and cultural interpretation.
Four weeks will be devoted to the technological and economic history of American television. These classes will also examine the theoretical perspectives from which scholars and policy-makers have perceived our television system. The remainder of the semester will be devoted to a study of the evolution of television's fundamental genres of storytelling: situation comedy, westerns, police and private-eye programs, other forms of melodrama. These categories of storytelling will be studied in a context that emphasizes their continuities with storyforms that developed in other media, such as films, the stage, and prose fiction. Writing/term: to be determined. One midterm quiz, one final exam; a possible take-home quiz to be determined. Format: informal lectures/discussion. Much in-class analysis of passages from TV programs.
The range of issues outlined in the writing assignments identifies many of the defining themes of this course.