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Page history last edited by David Walter 1 year, 9 months ago

The Return of Hollywood Babylon: The Art of the Episodic in TV and Lit


In this course we pull out the guts of stories to try and understand how storytellers craft works that grip us. In the process we examine classic attempts to say what makes good storytelling and put to the test the idea that any story has certain “rules” that make it successful. With an emphasis on understanding the structures that underpin the TV drama, we will study shooting scripts of The Wire and Mad Men, learning to interpret screenplay conventions on our way to understanding the complex move from script to screen. As we do so, we will also read classical and contemporary works representing a variety of genres—epic/romance, drama, and the novel—whose episodic structuring, serial format, and character layering can help us delve more deeply into the structure of the TV season. Finally, as the 1B is structured to introduce students to forms of research and theoretical approaches, we will attempt to apply critiques drawn from feminism and race studies.


In order to prepare students for the writing typically required in college-level courses and in civic discourse, this class teaches the composition of thesis-driven argumentative essays. Students will gain practice in composing brief to medium-length arguments that are focused, clearly organized, well supported and based on accurate critical reading of assigned materials. Students will turn in one short essay of three pages followed by two larger ones of 16 pages total, all of which they will develop out of informal written reflections and drafts. In addition, they will make class presentations, and collaborate on final group projects designed to creatively tie together the themes of the class.


Texts may include

Sophocles, Antigone

Kamila Shamsie, Home Fire

Walter Mosley, Devil in a Blue Dress

Rona Jaffe, The Best of Everything


Selections from: Betty Friedan, Simone de Beauvoir, Helen Gurley Brown, Robert McKee, David Simon, Richard Price, Chrétien, Michelle Alexander, Duneier' Ghetto, Khalil Gibran Muhammad's The Condemnation of Blackness, and other nonfiction journalism, criticism, and theory.


Visual Media and Accompanying Texts

Mad Men, season 1 (draft scripts and TV episodes)

The Wire, season 1 (shooting scripts and TV episodes)


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