CMNS 220

Understanding television

Considered by many to be one of the defining social, political and cultural features of post-war mass consumer culture, television is undergoing a radical transformation. No less central to cultural life, it is apparently fragmenting and morphing into something more expansive and diverse than before.

In this course we focus on developing critical, analytic tools with which to approach TV today as complex institution, text, and set of viewer practices. This course will provide a set of critical concepts to come to a sophisticated understanding of its communication processes and its larger cultural and social functions.

We will consider both how social forces shape television and how TV represents the social world. Students should be able to apply those concepts in their assigned work.

We will begin with an exploration of television realism(s) and students are asked to conduct a close textual analysis of a realist program.

We will apply that work to an ongoing discussion of the ideological implications of a variety of TV forms like HBO, reality TV, drama, late night comedy, indigenous TV, crime and procedural drama, etc.

We will learn to think critically about social representation; we will consider issues of gender and class, taste and so on.

By the end of the course, students will be familiar with some of the basic debates and critical frameworks of current television studies.

Tutorial presentations and exercises

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