TCF 311 Critical Studies in Television

Spring 1997 (3 credit hours)

Instructor: Jeremy Butler
Office: 430C Phifer Hall, 348-6350
Office hours: M 3-5, TT 2-3
TCF Web Site:
Current Grades:
Channels of Discourse Discussion Questions:

Course Objectives:

The objective of this course is to introduce the student to television critical studies, or what is commonly called, within academics, "television criticism" (a parallel with literary criticism).

We will seek, first of all, to understand television as a unique meaning-producing medium--dissecting television's narrative and non-narrative structures and its uses of mise-en-scene, cinematography/videography, editing, and sound. Second, we will confront the critical methods that have been applied to the medium over the past 20 years: semiotics, genre study, ideological criticism, cultural studies, and so on.

Our goal is to become more intelligent, alert, critical viewers of television.

Course Requirements:

The student's grade will depend upon two separate components:

1) Three critical analyses of TV programs, based on the principles presented in Television: Critical Methods and Applications. Worth 25 points each.

Each student will choose his/her programs, but Analysis One must be on a fictional drama (soap opera, police show, etc.), Analysis Two must be on a nonfiction aspect of TV (sports program, commercial, news program, etc.), and Analysis Three must be on a fictional comedy show (a sitcom, probably).

Analysis One is due 20 February and will be discussed in class. Each student must bring a videocassette of the TV program he/she analyzed to class. Analysis Two is due 28 March and Analysis Three is due 25 April.

These analyses must be typed and will be graded based on conceptual rigor and fluency of writing style. Any use of outside sources must be properly cited (that is, use footnotes). A bibliography and the credits (principal cast and crew) for the programs analyzed must be provided.

2) An open book, open note final exam--worth 25 points. It will cover Channels of Discourse, plus chapters 9, 10, and 11 in Television. The final exam period is Tuesday, 6 May, 2-4:30 p.m.

Please note: This is a seminar class which depends heavily upon students having done the readings and being prepared to discuss them in class. If the majority of the class fails to do a reading assignment then an in-class essay may be assigned and factored into the grading as part of the final exam score.

Posting of Grades:

Student grades will be posted (by the last four digits of your student ID number) on the TCF Department Web site ( If you do not wish your grade to be posted in this manner, please notify me in writing.

Current grades--click here.

Course Schedule

(subject to changes announced in class)

Date Topic Readings

1/9 Introduction to the Course

1/14 TV Structure, Narrative Structure Butler, chs. 1, 2

1/16 Characters, Actors, Stars Butler, ch. 3

1/21 Beyond and Beside Narrative Butler, ch. 4

1/23 Mise-en-Scene Butler, ch. 5

1/28 Cinematography/Videography Butler, ch. 6

1/30 Editing: Single Camera Mode Butler, ch. 7

2/4 Editing: Multiple Camera Mode Butler, ch. 7

2/6 Sound Butler, ch. 8

2/11 A History of TV Style Butler, ch. 9

2/13 Special Topics I: Music Television Butler, ch. 10

2/18 Special Topics II: Animation Butler, ch. 11

2/20 **Analysis One Due in Class** Butler, ch. 13

2/25 Critical Methods: An Overview Butler, ch. 12

Allen, Introduction

2/27, 3/4 Semiotics Allen, ch. 1

3/6 Narrative Theory Allen, ch. 2

3/11 Audience-Oriented Criticism Allen, ch. 3

3/13, 18 Genre Study Allen, ch. 4

3/20, 25 Ideological Criticism Allen, ch. 5

3/27 Psychoanalytic Criticism Allen, ch. 6

3/28 **Analysis Two Due: 4:45 p.m., TCF Office**

3/29-4/6 Spring Break

4/8 Psychoanalytic Criticism, Cont.

4/10, 15 Feminist Criticism Allen, ch. 7

4/17, 22 Cultural Studies, Ethnography Allen, ch. 8

4/24 Postmodernism Allen, ch. 9

4/25 **Analysis Three Due: 4:45 p.m., TCF Office**

4/29 Postmodernism, Cont. Allen, ch. 9

5/1 Course Summary

5/6 **Final Exam: Tuesday, 2-4:30 p.m.**

Reading List:

Available at Local Bookstores:

Robert C. Allen, Channels of Discourse, Reassembled, second edition (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992). Discussion questions on this book are available.

Jeremy G. Butler, Television: Critical Methods and Applications (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1994).

(NOTE: The above citations follow the guidelines for footnotes specified in Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers. Citations in a bibliography use a slightly different format.)

Academic Misconduct Policy:

All acts of dishonesty in any work constitute academic misconduct. The Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Policy will be followed in the event of academic misconduct.

Disabilities Accommodation Policy:

Every effort will be made to accommodate students with disabilities. Please notify me at the start of the semester if you require such accommodations.