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TV Nation –Television and the Imagination of Community

ENGL 295.401

This upper-division seminar examines the historic and contemporary cultural power of television as a “cultural forum” and central site of struggle and debate regarding popular media and the imagination of national, regional, and community identity within the U.S. Using critical scholarship from television studies and cultural geography, in tandem with television screenings and clips, the course examines how TV historically has appealed to and informed ideals or concerns regarding national identity and its presumed meaning and value. While the course focuses particularly on U.S. television, it situates critical theories of TV in relation to wider debates within contemporary western culture regarding “mass” society, hierarchies of culture and “taste,” ideology, and the politics of community identity and subjectivity. Key questions the course poses will include: How have particular television genres (e.g., sport TV, “event” TV, and news), institutions (e.g., advertising, PBS), or programs (from CBS Reports to American Idol), energized debates about national identity, national “purpose,” and community “tastes”? Historically, how has television appealed to a spectrum of class, race, ethnic, gender, and geographic “differences” within the national audience? How have viewers intervened to encourage more “representative” programming in these terms? In a “new media” context, does TV still have the power to imagine “community”? Course requirements include: attendance and active participation, close reading of assigned texts, class discussion moderation/presentation, assigned short essay, and final research paper. 

fulfills requirements