English R1A

Reading & Composition: Writing About Television

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Fall 2015 Chamberlain, Shannon
TTh 3:30-5 222 Wheeler

Book List

Thomas, Rob, ed.: Neptune Noir: Unauthorized Investigations into Veronica Mars; Thompson, Ethan and Jason Mittell, eds.: How to Watch Television

Other Readings and Media

Veronica Mars (Seasons 1 and 2--available as DVD/BluRay box sets or downloads from iTunes, Amazon, etc.); also a Course Reader and other online readings as selected by the instructor.


Writing about television constitutes one of the most popular forms of literary criticism outside of academic circles today. TV critic Lili Loofbourow argues that episode recaps and their in-depth analysis of our favorite shows fulfill our need for a "sustained, ethical, collective conversation" and that television shows provide the common text for that conversation in a secular age. This course will examine the claim that TV shows provide a way to talk about questions that used to belong to the domains of religion and philosophy, through our own sustained engagement with the first two seasons of the critically acclaimed teenage noir detective show Veronica Mars, which we will watch and discuss together in the form of a group recapping blog. As with most multi-arc television shows, there are many potential topics that students might choose to pursue, from issues of the conventions of the detective show genre and its structure to the ethical quandaries faced by a teenage private eye in a socially and racially diverse southern California town. Part of the course's aim is to help you learn how to decide what engages your interest and makes for an effective critical approach to a topic.

The class will involve a substantial time commitment: at least four hours of weekly TV viewing; supplementary reading to help students learn the stylistic and formal requirements of episode recaps; group blogging; and several papers that develop blog posts into larger-scale engagements with the course material and the question of mass media's role in ethical debates. Peer review will play a significant role in the editing and grading processes.

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