The Craft of Writing – Film Focus / TV after TV
R1B - 005 | CCN: 22348
Lisa Jacobson & Lida Zeitlin Wu
M/W/F 1:00-2:00PM, Wheeler 202; Screening Mon. 2:00 – 5:00PM, Wheeler 202 ///
In 1996, cultural critic Susan Sontag announced the “Decay of Cinema”: whatever had made film unique and worthy of the love of so-called cinephiles was ending. In 2015, FX CEO John Landgraf referred to the unprecedented numbers of scripted series being produced for American television as “peak TV.” These statements may appear to describe opposing phenomena — one medium in decline, the other at its highest ever point — but might they be closer than they sound? What does it mean for a medium to reach its “peak”? Is it the beginning, middle, or end of the story of television? How do we know? And what counts as “television” today anyway?
In this course, we will take a long view of the history of television in America, from early broadcast and moving image history to current online streaming platforms. We will consider which features define television as a medium — for example, liveness, commodification, or the conditions of viewing in the home — and analyze their relevance for how we define television today. We will discuss television in the context of other media and technologies, and debate the extent to which it can be separated from devices such as computers, tablets, and smartphones. All the while, we will keep an eye toward the ways in which television can reflect, reproduce, or challenge existing power dynamics within society. We will pair more theoretical readings with
close analysis of individual films and television shows that will function as case studies for the broader ideas we are discussing.
Over the course of the semester, we will practice translating our process of analyzing film and television into your own analytical writing and research. We will build on frequent short in-class and at-home writing exercises with two longer writing assignments: a Midterm Project and a Final Project. By the end of the course, you should be able to identify various audio, visual, and narrative techniques and analyze their use; draw connections among our readings and case studies; conduct relevant research; create your own original arguments that address the larger questions of the course; and strengthen your writing by incorporating feedback from your classmates and instructors. This will help prepare you not only for writing in Film & Media and across the humanities, but also for critically engaging with the media you encounter every day.