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English 7061: HBO's America: Television, History, Culture

This course will consider the remarkable rise of "quality television" as exemplified by a selection of HBO's dramatic series produced between 1997-2007. Our key focus will be the ways in which the typically maligned medium of television, which has usually functioned to create and reinforce prevailing cultural mythologies, has been used in these cases to mount a trenchant critique of those mythologies. Specifically, we will be concerned with American mythologies, and how our selected series present a counter-narrative of American history.engl7061

We will be focusing on four series over the semester: the prison drama Oz (1997-2003), the mafia saga of The Sopranos (1999-2007), the revisionist western Deadwood (2004-2006), and the ersatz cop shop The Wire (2002-2008). There will be two to three screening hours a week in which a selection of episodes will be watched. Attendance at the screenings is mandatory.

Concurrently with our consideration of these series, we will also be reading key texts in the development of cultural theory, with a focus on the development of mass media and the debate between proponents and detractors of mass culture.

Theoretical readings may include selections from:

Adorno, Theodor and Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment.

Arnold, Matthew. Culture and Anarchy.

Barthes, Roland. Mythologies.

Bourdieu, Pierre. On Distinction.

Brantlinger, Patrick. Bread and Circuses: Theories of Mass Culture as Social Decay.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish.

—. The History of Sexuality: Volume One.

Marcuse, Herbert. One-Dimensional Man.

Williams, Raymond. Culture and Society.

There will also be a selection of recommended ancillary readings on reserve at the library.



Winter 2012


Dr. Christopher Lockett (