Television & Reading: Critical Literacy and American Narratives (ENG 240)

What does watching television like an expert have to do with reading well? For over a decade, critics have pointed to the increasing “literary” quality of television as an artistic medium, noting and labeling shows like “The Sopranos” as “the greatest” work or artifact within various modes of American production over the past few decades, if not longer. The goal of this course is to begin to contextualize such comments as they have to do with the evolution of production and consumption of American narratives in general—both in literature and in popular media. While building critical literacy skills and gaining exposure to the world of media and cultural studies, students in this course will compare the ways in which American cultural identity is shaped within seminal works of mainly twentieth-and twenty-first-century writers (Edith Wharton, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Edwidge Danticat) alongside significant television series that attempt to represent what it means to be “American” in terms of race, nation, gender, class, and sexual orientation, including “Sex & the City,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Bernie Mac Show,” and “Modern Family.”