Category Archives: Science Fiction

Fantasy & Science Fiction Media, Spring 2014

FILM 4280/6280, Spring 2014

Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:00-2:15 PM, 401 Langdale

Screenings Tuesdays, 11:00 AM-12:50 PM, 406 Arts & Humanities

 

Ted Friedman

25 Park Place #1017

tedf@gsu.edu

http://twitter.com/tedfriedman

http://tedfriedman.com

 

 

Course Description

How do we dream our visions of the future? How do we explore our fantasies of the past?

 

Science fiction extrapolates the trends of the present to imagine possible future worlds, both utopian and (more often) dystopian. Fantasy looks back to imagine past worlds in which technology has not yet usurped nature. Both genres are rooted in mythic traditions that push beyond the boundaries of realism to reach for deeper truths.

 

This class will examine the genres of fantasy and science fiction across multiple media, including film, television, literature, comics and gaming. We’ll survey their history, while at the same time tracing the impact of each text forward into the present. We’ll look at how these works have reflected and influenced American society, as each new generation of creators has responded to changing social conditions by re-imagining the key tropes and themes of the genres. And we’ll try to understand why these visions continue to capture the world’s imagination.

 

Readings

Class readings will include books and a coursepack of articles. Here are the books you’ll need:

 

Maggie Hyde and Michael McGuinness, Introducing Jung

Salman Rushdie, The Wizard of Oz

Neal Gaiman, The Sandman: Season of Mists

Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles

 

The course books can be ordered through online retailers such as amazon.com/student, bn.com, and powells.com. The coursepack is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South).

 

Students in Film 6280 will read two additional books of their choice, one scholarly book and one work of fiction, and will present them in two separately scheduled meetings with the other graduate students.

 

Twitter Feed 

Relevant news and commentary will be shared with the class via the Twitter hashtag #fsfmedia. Feel free to respond to tweets or post your own.  Class Schedule

 

Unit I: Modern Myths

 

T 1/14 Understanding Fantasy and Science Fiction

 

Th 1/16 The Power of Myth

Ted Friedman, “Myth, the Numinous, and Cultural Studies”:

http://flowtv.org/?p=4161

Ted Friedman, “The Politics of Magic,”

http://www.scope.nottingham.ac.uk/article.php?issue=14&id=1138&section=article&q=rose

 

T 1/21 Star Wars

Joseph Campbell, excerpt from The Hero With a Thousand Faces (CP)

Christopher Vogler and Stuart Voytilla, excerpt from Myth and the Movies (CP)

 

Th 1/23 Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious

Hyde and McGuinness, Introducing Jung

Ted Friedman, “Jung and Lost”:

http://flowtv.org/?p=3865

Ursula K. LeGuin, “The Child and the Shadow” (CP)

 

T 1/28 The Lord of the Rings 

J.R.R. Tolkien, “Introduction to The Fellowship of the Ring” (CP)

J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories”:

http://bjorn.kiev.ua/librae/Tolkien/Tolkien_On_Fairy_Stories.htm

 

Th 1/30 Game of Thrones

 

 

Unit II: Folklore and Fantasy

 

T 2/4 The Wizard of Oz

Salman Rushdie, The Wizard of Oz

 

Th 2/6 Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, “Why Vampires Never Die”:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/opinion/31deltoro.html?_r=1

Laura Miller, “Real Men Have Fangs”:

http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB122540672952785957-lMyQjAxMDI4MjE1MTQxMDE2Wj.html

 

T 2/11 The Company of Wolves

Angela Carter, “The Company of Wolves” (CP)

Selections from Marjorie Tatar, ed., The Classic Fairy Tales (CP)

 

Th 2/13 Firefly

 

T 2/18 Where the Wild Things Are

Alison Lurie, “Something Wonderful Out of Almost Nothing”:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jul/12/something-wonderful-out-almost-nothing/

 

Th 2/20 Dollhouse

 

T 2/25 Spirited Away

Margaret Talbot, “The Auteur of Anime” (CP)

James W. Boyd and Tetsuya Nishimura, “Shinto Perspectives in Miyazaki’s Anime Film Spirited Away,” The Journal of Religion and Film 8.2 (October 2004):

http://www.unomaha.edu/jrf/Vol8No2/boydShinto.htm

Norkio T. Reider, “Spirited Away: Film of the Fantastic and Evolving Japanese Folk Symbols,” Film Criticism 29.3 (2005): 4-27:

http://www.corneredangel.com/amwess/papers/spirited_away.pdf

Aaron Sherwood, “Characterization, Narrative Structure and Mythopoeia in the Films of Hayao Miyazaki” (2006):

http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/essay/files/AaronSherwood_Mythopoeia.pdf

 

Th 2/27 Lost

Jason Mittell, “Sites of Participation: Wiki Fandom and the Case of Lostpedia”:

http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/118/117

 

T 3/4 Pan’s Labyrinth and Sandman

Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Season of Mists

 

Th 3/6 The Walking Dead

Take-home midterm due

 

Unit III: Science Fiction

 

T 3/11 Metropolis

J. P. Telotte, “The Seductive Text of Metropolis” (CP)

William Gibson, “The Gernsback Continuum” (CP)

Andrew Ross, “Getting Out of the Gernsback Continuum” (CP)

David Hartwell, excerpt from Age of Wonders (CP)

 

Th 3/13 The Twilight Zone

 

T 3/18 Spring Break – no class

 

Th 3/20 Spring Break – no class

 

T 3/25 Bride of Frankenstein

Gary Morris, “Sexual Subversion: The Bride of Frankenstein”:

http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/19/19_bride1.html

 

Th 3/27 Star Trek

Henry Jenkins, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” (CP)

Ted Friedman, “Capitalism: The Final Frontier”:

http://www.tedfriedman.com/essays/2005/03/capitalism_the.html

 

T 4/1 Blade Runner

Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” (CP)

Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” (CP)

 

Th 4/3 The X-Files

Carl Jung, “Flying Saucers as Modern Myths” (CP)

 

T 4/8 Brazil and Ender’s Game

Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

 

Th 4/10 Battlestar Galactica

Spencer Ackerman, “Battlestar: Iraqtica,”

http://www.slate.com/id/2151425/nav/tap2/

 

T 4/15 The Matrix

David Weberman, “The Matrix: Simulation and the Postmodern Age” (CP)

Slavoj Zizek, “The Matrix, or the Two Sides of Perversion” (CP)

Aleksandar Hemon, “Beyond the Matrix”:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/09/10/120910fa_fact_hemon

 

Th 4/17 World of Warcraft and The Guild

Download and play the free World of Warcraft trial:

http://www.worldofwarcraft.com

 

T 4/22 Children of Men and The Age of Miracles

Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles

 

Th 4/24 Futurama

 

 

Take-Home Final due via email to tedf@gsu.edu on Thursday, May 1 by 5 PM

 

 

 

Screening Schedule

 

You are responsible for viewing assigned films in time for class discussion. Screenings are held on Tuesdays at 11 AM in 406 Arts & Humanities.

 

1/14 No screening

1/21 Star Wars

1/28 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

2/4 The Wizard of Oz

2/11 The Company of Wolves

2/18 Where the Wild Things Are

2/25 Spirited Away

3/4 Pan’s Labyrinth

3/11 Metropolis

3/18 Spring Break – no class

3/25 Bride of Frankenstein

4/1 Blade Runner

4/8 Brazil

4/15 The Matrix

4/22 Children of Men

 

 

 

Assignments

 

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

 

A+ 100-98 B+ 89-88 C+ 79-78 D 69-65

A 97-93 B 87-83 C 77-70 F 64-0

A- 92-90 B- 82-80

 

TV Presentation – 10 points (Film 4280 only)

As part of a 2-3 person team, you will give a presentation on an influential fantasy or science fiction television show. Your team has two presentation options:

 

Research Presentation: Each member of the team gives a 5-minute presentation on a different aspect of the show: 1) the creator/creators; 2) the economics of the production, including available budget and ratings information; 3) audience responses. Each member hands in a list of sources. A minimum of five separate sources is required for each member’s presentation. (Wikipedia can be consulted to find sources but does not itself count toward the five sources.) PowerPoint is not necessary, but short video clips (such as creator interviews, news stories, and fan films) should be incorporated into each presentation when available.

 

Creative Presentation: Alternately, the presentation team can choose to collectively produce a short film about the TV show. Options include an edited selection of clips with voice-over commentary, a series of interviews with viewers, or a fan film.

 

Book Presentations – 5 points each (Film 6280 only)

Graduate students will read two additional books of their choice, one scholarly book and one work of fiction, and will give short a presentation on each in two separately scheduled meetings with the other graduate students.

 

Take-Home Midterm – 45 points (Film 4280 and 6280)

The take-home midterm will require you to relate concepts from the readings and lectures to the assigned films, series, novels and comics. Undergraduate and graduate students will take the same exam, but graduate students will be expected to submit more detailed answers. Due March 7.

 

Take-Home Final – 45 points (Film 4280 and 6280)

The take-home final will be structured just like the midterm, covering the second half of the semester. Due April 30.

 

Attendance Adjustment

As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

 

 

 

Policies

 

Office Hours

Office hours are by appointment. I’m usually available to meet before and after every class.

 

Late Papers

Late midterms are penalized at the rate of 1/2 point per day overdue. Late finals cannot be accepted without an extension.

 

Rewrites

Rewrites of any midterm question are welcome. The final grade on the question will be the average of the original grade and the rewritten version’s grade. Rewrites of the final are unavailable, but rough drafts of the final can be submitted for feedback through April 23.

 

Incompletes

Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

 

Assessment

Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State. Upon completing the course, please take time to fill out the online course evaluation.

 

Disability

Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.

 

Changes to the Syllabus

This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Senior Seminar: Convergence Culture, Spring 2014

Film 4910, Spring 2014

4910-010: Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:30-3:45, Classroom South 325

4910-015: Tuesdays & Thursdays 5:30-6:45, Classroom South 506

 

Ted Friedman

Office: 25 Park Place #1017

Email: ted@tedfriedman.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/tedfriedman

Website: https://tedfriedman.com/teaching

 

Course Description

Media today are converging, as the boundaries that divide movies, TV, games, computers and phones blur. Likewise, the familiar categories of producer and consumer intermingle in Web 2.0 practices such as blogging, vidding, modding and tweeting. This senior seminar will examine the shifting roles of creators and audiences across a range of media practices, culminating in a capstone project that represents your own engagement with the changing media landscape.

 

Readings

Two books are required for the class. Both are available for free online:

Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying (Harvard UP, 2010).

Laurence Lessig, Remix  (Bloomsbury Press, 2008)

 

In Praise of Copying can be downloaded at http://www.hup.harvard.edu/features/boon/. Spreadable Media can be downloaded at http://www.scribd.com/doc/47089238/Remix . Other assigned readings are available online at the URLs listed below. Supplementary links to media news and criticism will be distributed via the class Twitter hashtag #sensem.

 

Capstone Project

This seminar is structured to support the creation of an individual project (research or creative) addressing some aspect of authorship, audiences, and/or convergence.  This project may either be a research paper (10-15 pages), a website (15-20 pages), a fiction/nonfiction video (5-10 minutes), a comic book (24 pages), or a game (a board game with cards and rules, or a computer game), depending on your preference and previous technical experience. (Students will not receive technical training in the details of video production or multimedia development as part of this class. Support is available through the GSU Digital Aquarium, http://www.gsu.edu/aquarium/.)  The final submitted project will be the culmination of a series of assignments, as described below.

 

 

 

Critical Thinking through Writing

This course is a designated Critical Thinking through Writing (CTW) course. In film, “critical thinking” is defined as identifying, analyzing, and evaluating arguments and truth claims; and formulating and presenting convincing reasons in support of conclusions.

“Writing” refers to the skill of writing clear, well-organized, and grammatically correct English prose.

 

 

Schedule

 

Introducing Convergence Culture

 

1/14 Introduction

In-class screening: Star Wars fan films

 

1/16 Read Henry Jenkins, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars? Digital Cinema,

Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture,” Convergence Culture (NYU Press, 2006): http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html

Read Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail,” Wired, December 2004:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

In-class screening: Barbie Nation

 

The Culture of the Copy

 

1/21 Read Marcus Boon, In Praise of Copying, Introduction, Chapters 1-2

http://www.hup.harvard.edu/features/boon/

In-class screening: Rip! A Remix Manifesto 

 

1/23 Read Boon, Chapters 3-5

 

1/28 Read Boon, Chapters 6-7, Conclusion

In-class screening: Exit through the Gift Shop

Project Proposal due

 

1/30 Read Ted Friedman, “Ideologies of Information Processing: From Analog to Digital.” From Electric Dreams. New York: NYU Press, 2005. https://tedfriedman.com/ electric-dreams-chapter-two/

 

Remix Culture

 

2/4 Read Lessig, Remix, Introduction

http://www.scribd.com/doc/47089238/Remix

In-class screening: Copyright Criminals

 

2/6 Read L essig, Part 1

In-class screening: Everything Is a Remix

 

2/11 Read Lessig, Part 2

Project Structure draft due

 

2/13 Read Lessig, Part 3

 

Source/Influence Presentations

 

2/18 Source/Influence Presentations

 

2/20 Source/Influence Presentations

 

2/25 Source/Influence Presentations

Project Structure final draft due

 

2/27 Source/Influence Presentations

 

3/4 Source/Influence Presentations

 

3/6 Source/Influence Presentations

 

Proposal Workshops

 

3/11 Proposal Workshops

 

3/13 Proposal Workshops

 

3/18 Spring Break – no class

 

3/20 Spring Break – no class

 

3/25 Proposal Workshops

 

3/27 Proposal Workshops

 

4/1 Proposal Workshops

 

4/3 Proposal Workshops

 

 

New Media Today

 

4/8 Read Sasha Frere-Jones, “Cash on the Pinhead,” newyorker.com, August 12, 2013:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/sashafrerejones/2013/08/how-will- musicians-survive-in-the-spotify-era.html?mobify=0

Read Damon Krukowski, “Free Music,” Pitchfork, July 26, 2013:

http://pitchfork.com/features/oped/9178-free-music/

Read Tim Quirk, “My Hilarious Warner Bros. Royalty Statement,” toomuchjoy.com, December 2009:

http://www.toomuchjoy.com/index.php/2009/12/my-hilarious-warner-bros-royalty-statement/

 

4/10 Read Joe Karaganis, “Rethinking Piracy,” Media Piracy in Emerging Economies. New

York: Social Science Research Council, 2011.

http://piracy.americanassembly.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/MPEE-PDF-1- Rethinking-Piracy.pdf

Read Richard Barbrook, “The High Tech Gift Economy,” First Monday, December 5, 2005. http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1517/1432

 

Final Project Presentations

 

4/15 Final Project Presentations

 

4/17 Final Project Presentations

 

4/22 Final Project Presentations

 

4/24 Final Project Presentations

 

Final project due May 1

 

 

Assignments

 

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

 

A 100-93 B+ 89-88 C+ 79-78 D 70-65

A- 92-90 B 87-83 C 77-73 F 64-0

B- 82-80 C- 72-70

 

 

Project Proposal – 10 points

Write a 2-3 page proposal.  Students creating research papers, nonfiction videos, or websites will detail the questions to be investigated and the sources they will use (including bibliography).  Those creating fiction videos will present a story synopsis and a statement of their project’s intended meaning/purpose. The proposal is due in class on January 28.

 

Source/Influence Presentation – 10 points

Pick one or more texts that you expect to engage in your project. These may be sources you plan to write about, clips you plan to sample, or models for your own creative work. Present to the class (10-15 minutes) the background and context for the sources or influences, discussing how you plan to engage them in your own project. Presentations will be scheduled from February 18 to March 6.

 

Project Structure – 30 points

Write a 6-10 page document including the following segments:

 

I. Outline or script: 3-5 pages, form depending on project. An essay project should include an expanded outline. A nonfiction video project should include a detailed segmentation breaking down scenes. A fiction video project or comic book should include a full script. A website project should include a site map.

 

Plan: 3-5 pages. You will answer a series of questions to flesh out your goals and strategies for the project. (More information to follow on a separate handout.)

A rough draft of the Project Structure is due in class on February 11. After meetings to discuss revisions, the final version is due in class February 25.

 

Proposal Workshop – 10 points

Present your work in progress to the class. Workshops will be scheduled from March 11 to April 3.

 

Final Project Presentation – 10 points

After incorporating the class’s feedback from the Proposal Workshop, you will present a final version to the class at the end of the semester, April 15-24.

 

Final Project – 30 points

After incorporating further class feedback and polishing any rough edges, the final version of the capstone project is due on May 1.

 

Attendance Adjustment

As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes on your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

 

 

Policies

 

Late Assignments

Late assignments will be marked off by ½ point for every day overdue unless an extension is agreed upon before the due date. No work can be accepted after the deadline for the final project. Any unsubmitted work will receive a 0.

 

Withdrawals

Students withdrawing on or before the midsemester point will receive a W provided they are passing the course. Students who withdraw after the midsemester point will not be eligible for a W except in cases of hardship. If you withdraw after the midsemester point, you will be assigned a WF, except in those cases in which (1) hardship status is determined by the Office of the Dean of Students because of emergency, employment, or health reasons, and (2) you are passing the course.

 

Incompletes

Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

 

Changes to the Syllabus

This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

 

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American Film History, Fall 2013

Film 4960, Fall 2013

Class: Tuesdays & Thursdays 9:30-10:45 AM, Langdale 315

Screenings: Tuesdays at 11 AM, Arts & Humanities 406

Office: 25 Park Place South #1017

email: ted@tedfriedman.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/tedfriedman

website: http://www.tedfriedman.com

Course Description

How do movies reflect and influence American life? How has Hollywood shaped Americans’ image of the world, and the world’s view of Americans? What are the alternatives to Hollywood’s stories? What is the future of film in a digital age?

In attempting to answer these questions, this class will trace the history of American movies from the 1960s to the present. Along the way, we’ll look at the semiotics, aesthetics, economics, and politics of Hollywood movies and their independent alternatives.

Readings

The readings for the class include a coursepack, online articles, and a choice of movie memoirs from which you will select one to read.

The coursepack for this class is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South).

The choice of movie memoirs includes:

  • William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade (Warner, 1983).
  • Robert Evans, The Kid Stays in the Picture (Hyperion, 1994).
  • Robert Rodriguez, Rebel Without a Crew (Plume, 1996).
  • Sidney Lumet, Making Movies (Vintage, 1996).
  • John Gregory Dunne, Monster (Random House, 1997).
  • Brian Michael Bendis, Fortune and Glory: A True Hollywood Comic Book Story (Oni, 2000)
  • Lloyd Kaufman, Make Your Own Damn Movie! Secrets from a Renegade Director (LA Weekly Books, 2003).
  • Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, Writing Movies for Fun & Profit (Touchstone, 2011).
  • Lynda Obst, Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

In addition, optional movie news items and reviews will be distributed through the Twitter hashtag #afh2. Find all recent tweets by searching http://twitter.com for #afh2, and feel free to share your own links and comments by including #afh2 in any tweet.

Class Schedule

8/27 Introduction

In-class screening: opening of Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg, 1998).

 

8/29 Warm Bodies (Levine, 2013)

Rachel Dodes, “Why It Took Seven Years to See Mandy Lane,” Wall Street Journal, August 22, 2013:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324747104579022770929528870.html

 

9/3 Hollywood Today

David Bordwell, “Intensified Continuity: Visual Style in Contemporary

American Film,” Film Quarterly 55.3 (Spring 2002): 16-28.

Ashley Lutz, “These 6 Corporations Control 90% of the Media in America,” Business 

Insider, June 14, 2012 [infographic by Jason of http://frugaldad.com]:

http://www.businessinsider.com/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6

Christopher Anderson, “The Long Tail,” Wired, December 2010:

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

Peter Suderman, “Save the Movie!”, Slate, July 19, 2013:

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2013/07/hollywood_and_blake_snyder_s_screenwriting_book_save_the_cat.html

Peter Suderman, “The Save the Cat Beat Sheet,” Slate, July 19, 2013:

http://www.slate.com/sidebars/2013/07/the_save_the_cat_beat_sheet.html

Scott Brown, “Nuke the Cat!”, New York, August 4, 2013:

http://www.vulture.com/2013/08/script-doctor-damon-lindelof-on-blockbuster-screenwriting.html

 

9/5 Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)

Robin Wood, “George Romero: Apocalypse Now,” Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan 

and Beyond (Columbia UP, 2003), 101-119.

Thomas Schatz, “Film Genres and the Genre Film,” Hollywood Genres (McGraw-Hill,

1981), 14-41.

 

9/10 Body Genres

Carol J. Clover, “Her Body, Himself,” Men, Women and Chainsaws (Princeton UP, 1992), 21-64.

Linda Williams, “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre and Excess,” Film Quarterly 44.4 (Summer 1991), 2-13.

In-class screening: The American Nightmare (Simon, 2000).

 

9/12 McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Altman, 1971)

Richard Slotkin, “Introduction: The Significance of the Frontier Myth in American History,”

Gunfighter Nation (Oklahoma UP, 1998), 1-26.

Pauline Kael, “McCabe & Mrs. Miller: Pipe Dream,” New Yorker, July 3, 1971.

 

9/17 The Hollywood Renaissance

Yannis Tzioumakis, “The New Hollywood and the Independent Hollywood,” American Independent Cinema: An Introduction (Rutgers UP, 2006), 169-191.

In-class screening: American Cinema: The Film School Generation (Klarer, 2000).

 

9/19 The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)

Robert Ray, “Introduction,” “Left and Right Cycles,” and “The Godfather and Taxi Driver,” A Certain Tendency in the Hollywood Cinema, 1930-1980 (Princeton UP, 1985), 3-21, 296-360.

 

9/24 Blaxploitation

Ed Guerrero, “The Rise and Fall of Blaxploitation,” from Framing Blackness: The African-American Image in Film, excerpted in Movies and American Society, ed. Steven J. Ross (Blackwell, 2002), 250-273.

In-class screening: Baadasssss Cinema (Julien, 2002).

 

9/26 Jaws (Spielberg, 1975)

Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz, “Introduction,” “The Hunter Myth” and “Jaws: Faces of the Shadow,” Projecting the Shadow: The Cyborg Hero in American Film (University of Chicago Press, 1995), 1-8, 52-99.

 

10/1 The New Hollywood

Thomas Schatz, “The New Hollywood,” in Jim Collins, Hilary Radner, and Ava Preacher Collins, eds., Film Theory Goes to the Movies (Routledge, 1993), 8-36.

 

10/3 Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Heckerling, 1982)

Robin Wood, “Teens, Parties and Rollercoasters: A Genre of the 1990s,” Hollywood: From Vietnam to Reagan…and Beyond (Columbia, 2003), 144-167, 309-332.

Susan Faludi, “Fatal and Fetal Visions: The Backlash in the Movies,” Backlash (Broadway Books, 1991), 112-139.

 

10/8 Director Presentations

 

10/10 Robocop (Verhoven, 1987)

Susan Jeffords, “Hard Bodies: The Reagan Heroes” and “The Movies are Looking for a Few Good White Men,” Hard Bodies (Rutgers UP, 1994): 24-63, 104-139.

 

10/15 Director Presentations

 

10/17 Do the Right Thing (Lee, 1989)

Nelson George, excerpts from Blackface: Reflections on African-Americans and the 

Movies (Perennial, 1995).

In-class screening: Classified X

Take-home Midterm due

 

10/22 Director Presentations

 

10/24 Dazed and Confused (Linklater, 1993)

Michael Z. Newman, “Indie Cinema Viewing Strategies,” Indie: An American Film Culture

(Columbia UP, 2011), 21-47.

Yannis Tzioumakis, “The Institutionalization of American Independent Cinema,” American Independent Cinema: An Introduction (Rutgers UP, 2006), 246-280.

 

10/29 Director Presentations

 

10/31 Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)

David Foster Wallace, “David Lynch Keeps His Head,” A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll 

Never Do Again (Back Bay, 1998), 146-212.

Michael Z. Newman, “Games of Narrative Form,” Indie: An American Film Culture

(Columbia, 2011), 182-220.

Bill Wyman, Max Garrone and Andy Klein, “Everything You Were Afraid to Ask About Mulholland Drive,” Salon, October 24, 2001:

http://www.salon.com/2001/10/24/mulholland_drive_analysis/

 

11/5 Hollywood Sexuality

Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffin, “Sexuality and American Film,” America on Film 

(Wiley-Blackwell, 2009): 303-355.

In-class screening: The Celluloid Closet

 

11/7 Brokeback Mountain (Lee, 2005)

Alexander Doty, “There’s Something Queer Here,” Making Things Perfectly Queer

(Minnesota UP, 1993), 1-16.

 

11/12 Director Presentations

 

11/14 Zero Dark Thirty (Bigelow, 2013)

Peter Bergen, “Zero Dark Thirty: Did Torture Really Net Bin Laden?” CNN.com,

December 11, 2012:

http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/10/opinion/bergen-zero-dark-thirty/index.html

Jane Meyer, “Zero Conscience in Zero Dark Thirty,” New Yorker, December 14, 2012:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/12/torture-in-kathryn-bigelows-zero-dark-thirty.html?mobify=0

Steve Coll, “‘Disturbing’ & ‘Misleading,’” New York Review of Books, February 7, 2013:

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/feb/07/disturbing-misleading-zero-dark-thirty/?pagination=false

Spencer Ackerman, “Two Cheers for Zero Dark Thirty,” Wired.com, December 12, 2012:

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/12/zero-dark-thirty/

 

11/19 Director Presentations

 

11/21 Iron Man 3 (Black, 2013)

Begin reading one of the movie memoirs listed above.

 

Thanksgiving Break – No Class 11/26, 11/28

 

12/3 Director Presentations

 

12/5 Class Choice

 

Take-home Final due December 12

 

Screenings

 

You are responsible for viewing the assigned film before class each Thursday. Screenings are Tuesdays at 11 AM in 406 Arts & Humanities.

 

8/27 Warm Bodies

9/3 Night of the Living Dead

9/10 McCabe & Mrs. Miller

9/17 The Godfather

9/24 Jaws

10/1 Fast Times at Ridgemont High

10/8 Robocop

10/15 Do the Right Thing

10/22 Dazed and Confused

10/29 Mulholland Drive

11/5 Brokeback Mountain

11/12 Zero Dark Thirty

11/19 Iron Man 3

12/3 Class choice

 

 

Assignments

 

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

 

A+ 100-98 B+ 89-88 C+ 79-78 D 69-65

A 97-93 B 87-83 C 77-70 F 64-0

A- 92-90 B- 82-80

 

Presentation – 10 Points

 

With a partner, you will research and present a 15-20 minute discussion of a contemporary American filmmaker. A list of potential directors is attached. The presentation should include the following parts:

 

1. One partner will begin by presenting a brief overview of the director’s work, with an emphasis on key films which demonstrate what makes the director’s work distinctive and innovative. Focus on bringing to class up to speed on what they should know about the director in order to have an informed discussion of the clip. If at all possible, include a short clip (under 5 minutes) of the director discussing his or her own work, from a DVD Special Feature, YouTube clip, documentary, or other source.

 

2. Screen a short film clip (under 5 minutes) selected by both partners to exemplify the director’s style. Unless you choose the alternate presentation (discussed below), use one continuous clip.

 

3. The other partner will then present a short analysis of the clip. Choose 1-3 film elements, and discuss in detail how each element functions in the clip. Rewind and replay selections from the clip, or pause on still images, to highlight key moments. (Be sure to prepare by noting in advance the time marks for moments you want to highlight.)

 

4. Class discussion.

 

5. At the end of class, hand in a list of your group’s sources. At least six distinct sources are required from each group. (You don’t need to specifically discuss all sources during your presentation – the goal is that you dig around enough to find the most useful material.) Possible sources include books, journal articles, interviews, documentaries, DVD commentary tracks, and YouTube videos. Wikipedia can be a useful launching pad for your research but does not in itself count towards your six sources. Other recommended resources:

 

Film & Television Literature Index:

http://web.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.gsu.edu/ehost/search/basic?sid=941c38dc-4cf8-4b7d-b462-670bc0603fbd%40sessionmgr111&vid=2&hid=126

“Gateways to Geekery,” The A.V. Club:

http://www.avclub.com/features/gateways-to-geekery/

“The New Cult Canon,” The A.V. Club:

http://www.avclub.com/features/the-new-cult-canon/

Box Office Mojo: http://boxofficemojo.com

Internet Movie Database: http://imdb.com

Film Studies for Free: http://filmstudiesforfree.blogspot.com

 

Alternate presentation: if you choose, you may produce a video presentation on your director in place of the spoken presentation. Possible video projects include an edited selection of clips with commentary, interviews with viewers, a fan film, or a trailer mashup. Video equipment and training are available at GSU’s Digital Aquarium in the Student Center.

 

Take-Home Midterm – 45 points

The take-home midterm will require you to relate concepts from the readings and lectures to the films screened in the first half of the semester. Due in class October 17.

 

Take-Home Final – 45 points

The take-home final will be structured just like the midterm, covering the second half of the semester. Due December 12.

 

Attendance Adjustment

As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

 

 

Policies

 

Re-Writes and Makeup Tests

Opportunities for revision and improvement will be available for the midterm and the presentation. In addition, I will look at optional drafts of the final submitted on or before December 1.

 

Late and Unsubmitted Papers

Late papers will be marked off by ½ point for every day overdue unless an extension is agreed upon before the due date. Any unsubmitted papers will receive a 0. Likewise, any unanswered exam questions will receive a 0. So, if you answer only 2 out of 3 required exam questions, you will get a 0 on the third question.

 

Academic Honesty

The university’s policy on academic honesty is attached. The policy prohibits plagiarism, cheating on examinations, unauthorized collaboration, falsification, and multiple submissions. Violation of the policy will result in failing the class, in addition to disciplinary sanctions.

 

The Internet makes it easy to plagiarize, but also easy to track down plagiarism. Bottom line: Don’t plagiarize. It’s wrong, and it’s not worth it. There’s always a better way. Cite all your sources, put all direct quotations in quotation marks, and clearly note when you are paraphrasing other authors’ work.

 

Incompletes

Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

 

Changes to the Syllabus

This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

 

Course Evaluation

Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State University.  Upon completing the course, please take the time to fill out the online course evaluation.

 

 

 

 

 

pastedGraphic.pdf

Director List

 

Note: This is only a partial list. Feel free to choose any other director who’s made English-language films since World War II, with one exception: directors of films screened for class are off limits, since they’re already covered.

 

 

Woody Allen

Paul Thomas Anderson

Allison Anders

Kenneth Anger

Judd Apatow

Greg Araki

Darren Aronofsky

Hal Ashby

Ralph Bakshi

Paul Bartel

Michael Bay

Luc Besson

Brad Bird

Lizzie Borden

Danny Boyle

Stan Brakhage

Albert Brooks

Mel Brooks

Charles Burnett

Tim Burton

James Cameron

Jane Campion

Shane Carruth

John Cassavetes

Joel & Ethan Coen

Martha Coolidge

Sofia Coppola

Roger Corman

Alex Cox

Wes Craven

David Cronenberg

Cameron Crowe

Julie Dash

Ossie Davis

Tamra Davis

Guillermo del Toro

Jonathan Demme

Brian DePalma

Tom DiCillo

Ernest Dickerson

Atom Egoyan

Bobby and Peter Farrelly

Jon Favreau

Abel Ferrara

David Fincher

Stephen Frears

William Friedkin

Sam Fuller

Terry Gilliam

Michael Gondry

F. Gary Gray

David Gordon Green

Paul Greengrass

Christopher Guest

James Gunn

Mary Harron

Hal Hartley

Amy Heckerling

Albert and Allen Hughes

Peter Jackson

Henry Jaglom

Rian Johnson

Spike Jonze

Neil Jordan

Jon Jost

Lloyd Kaufman

Harmony Korine

Stanley Kubrick

Neil LaBute

John Lassiter

David Lean

Barry Levinson

Doug Liman

Ken Loach

Sidney Lumet

Terrence Malick

Michael Mann

Elaine May

George Miller

Michael Moore

Errol Morris

Greg Mottola

Mira Nair

Gregory Nava

Mike Nichols

Victor Nunez

Alexander Payne

Sam Peckinpah

Arthur Penn

Sidney Poitier

Roman Polanski

Alex Proyas

Sam Raimi

Rob Reiner

Tim Robbins

Robert Rodriguez

Eli Roth

Alan Rudolph

David O. Russell

Nancy Savoca

John Sayles

Michael Schultz

Martin Scorcese

Susan Seidelman

M. Night Shyamalan

Bryan Singer

John Singleton

Jack Smith

Kevin Smith

Zach Snyder

Stephen Sodebergh

Todd Solondz

Penelope Spheeris

Andrew Stanton

Whit Stillman

Quentin Tarantino

Julien Temple

Rose Troche

Melvin Van Peebles

Gus Van Sandt

Lars von Trier

Lana & Andy Wachowski

Wayne Wang

Andy Warhol

John Waters

Forest Whitaker

Fredric Wiseman

John Woo

Edgar Wright

Boaz Yakin

Benh Zeitlin

Robert Zemeckis

Rob Zombie

Fantasy and Science Fiction Media, Spring 2013

FILM 4280/6280, Spring 2013
Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:00-2:15 PM, 331 General Classroom Building
Screenings Tuesdays, 11:00 AM-12:50 PM, 406 Arts & Humanities

Ted Friedman
25 Park Place #1017
tedf@gsu.edu
http://twitter.com/tedfriedman
http://tedfriedman.com

Course Description
How do we dream our visions of the future? How do we explore our fantasies of the past?

Science fiction extrapolates the trends of the present to imagine possible future worlds, both utopian and (more often) dystopian. Fantasy looks back to imagine past worlds in which technology has not yet usurped nature. Both genres are rooted in mythic traditions that push beyond the boundaries of realism to reach for deeper truths.

This class will examine the genres of fantasy and science fiction across multiple media, including film, television, literature, comics and gaming. We’ll survey their history, while at the same time tracing the impact of each text forward into the present. We’ll look at how these works have reflected and influenced American society, as each new generation of creators has responded to changing social conditions by re-imagining the key tropes and themes of the genres. And we’ll try to understand why these visions continue to capture the world’s imagination.

Readings
Class readings will include books and a coursepack of articles. Here are the books you’ll need:

Maggie Hyde and Michael McGuinness, Introducing Jung
Salman Rushdie, The Wizard of Oz
Neal Gaiman, The Sandman: Season of Mists
Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles

The course books can be ordered through online retailers such as amazon.com/student, bn.com, and powells.com. The coursepack is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South).

Students in Film 6280 will read two additional books of their choice, one scholarly book and one work of fiction, and will present them in two separately scheduled meetings with the other graduate students.

Twitter Feed
Relevant news and commentary will be shared with the class via the Twitter hashtag #fsfmedia. Feel free to respond to tweets or post your own. Class Schedule

Unit I: Modern Myths

T 1/15 Understanding Fantasy and Science Fiction

Th 1/17 The Power of Myth
Ted Friedman, “Myth, the Numinous, and Cultural Studies”:
http://flowtv.org/?p=4161
Ted Friedman, “The Politics of Magic,”
http://www.scope.nottingham.ac.uk/article.php?issue=14&id=1138&section=article&q=rose

T 1/22 Star Wars
Joseph Campbell, excerpt from The Hero With a Thousand Faces (CP)
Christopher Vogler and Stuart Voytilla, excerpt from Myth and the Movies (CP)

Th 1/24 Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious
Hyde and McGuinness, Introducing Jung
Ted Friedman, “Jung and Lost”:
http://flowtv.org/?p=3865
Ursula K. LeGuin, “The Child and the Shadow” (CP)

T 1/29 The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien, “Introduction to The Fellowship of the Ring” (CP)
J.R.R. Tolkien, “On Fairy Stories”:
http://bjorn.kiev.ua/librae/Tolkien/Tolkien_On_Fairy_Stories.htm

Th 1/31 Game of Thrones

Unit II: Folklore and Fantasy

T 2/5 The Wizard of Oz
Salman Rushdie, The Wizard of Oz

Th 2/7 Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan, “Why Vampires Never Die”:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/31/opinion/31deltoro.html?_r=1
Laura Miller, “Real Men Have Fangs”:
http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB122540672952785957-lMyQjAxMDI4MjE1MTQxMDE2Wj.html

T 2/12 The Company of Wolves
Angela Carter, “The Company of Wolves” (CP)
Selections from Marjorie Tatar, ed., The Classic Fairy Tales (CP)

Th 2/14 Firefly

T 2/19 Where the Wild Things Are
Alison Lurie, “Something Wonderful Out of Almost Nothing”:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2012/jul/12/something-wonderful-out-almost-nothing/

Th 2/21 Dollhouse

T 2/26 Spirited Away
Margaret Talbot, “The Auteur of Anime” (CP)
James W. Boyd and Tetsuya Nishimura, “Shinto Perspectives in Miyazaki’s Anime Film Spirited Away,” The Journal of Religion and Film 8.2 (October 2004):
http://www.unomaha.edu/jrf/Vol8No2/boydShinto.htm
Norkio T. Reider, “Spirited Away: Film of the Fantastic and Evolving Japanese Folk Symbols,” Film Criticism 29.3 (2005): 4-27:

Click to access spirited_away.pdf


Aaron Sherwood, “Characterization, Narrative Structure and Mythopoeia in the Films of Hayao Miyazaki” (2006):

Click to access AaronSherwood_Mythopoeia.pdf

Th 2/28 Lost
Jason Mittell, “Sites of Participation: Wiki Fandom and the Case of Lostpedia”:
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/118/117

T 3/5 Pan’s Labyrinth and Sandman
Neil Gaiman, The Sandman: Season of Mists

Th 3/7 The Walking Dead
Take-home midterm due

Unit III: Science Fiction

T 3/12 Metropolis
J. P. Telotte, “The Seductive Text of Metropolis” (CP)
William Gibson, “The Gernsback Continuum” (CP)
Andrew Ross, “Getting Out of the Gernsback Continuum” (CP)
David Hartwell, excerpt from Age of Wonders (CP)

Th 3/14 The Twilight Zone

T 3/19 Spring Break – no class

Th 3/21 Spring Break – no class

T 3/26 Bride of Frankenstein
Gary Morris, “Sexual Subversion: The Bride of Frankenstein”:
http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/19/19_bride1.html

Th 3/28 Star Trek
Henry Jenkins, “Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations” (CP)
Ted Friedman, “Capitalism: The Final Frontier”:
http://www.tedfriedman.com/essays/2005/03/capitalism_the.html

T 4/2 Blade Runner
Donna Haraway, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs” (CP)
Fredric Jameson, “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” (CP)

Th 4/4 The X-Files
Carl Jung, “Flying Saucers as Modern Myths” (CP)

T 4/9 Brazil and Ender’s Game
Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game

Th 4/11 Battlestar Galactica
Spencer Ackerman, “Battlestar: Iraqtica,”
http://www.slate.com/id/2151425/nav/tap2/

T 4/16 The Matrix
David Weberman, “The Matrix: Simulation and the Postmodern Age” (CP)
Slavoj Zizek, “The Matrix, or the Two Sides of Perversion” (CP)
Aleksandar Hemon, “Beyond the Matrix”:
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/09/10/120910fa_fact_hemon

Th 4/18 World of Warcraft and The Guild
Download and play the free World of Warcraft trial:
http://www.worldofwarcraft.com

T 4/23 Children of Men and The Age of Miracles
Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles

Th 4/25 Futurama

Take-Home Final due via email to tedf@gsu.edu on Tuesday, April 30 by 5 PM

Screening Schedule

You are responsible for viewing assigned films in time for class discussion. Screenings are held on Thursdays at 4:30 PM in 406 Arts & Humanities.

1/15 No screening
1/22 Star Wars
1/29 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
2/5 The Wizard of Oz
2/12 The Company of Wolves
2/19 Where the Wild Things Are
2/26 Spirited Away
3/5 Pan’s Labyrinth
3/12 Metropolis
3/19 Spring Break – no class
3/26 Bride of Frankenstein
4/2 Blade Runner
4/9 Brazil
4/16 The Matrix
4/23 Children of Men

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A+ 100-98 B+ 89-88 C+ 79-78 D 69-65
A 97-93 B 87-83 C 77-70 F 64-0
A- 92-90 B- 82-80

TV Presentation – 10 points (Film 4280 only)
As part of a 2-3 person team, you will give a presentation on an influential fantasy or science fiction television show. Your team has two presentation options:

Research Presentation: Each member of the team gives a 5-minute presentation on a different aspect of the show: 1) the creator/creators; 2) the economics of the production, including available budget and ratings information; 3) audience responses. Each member hands in a list of sources. A minimum of five separate sources is required for each member’s presentation. (Wikipedia can be consulted to find sources but does not itself count toward the five sources.) PowerPoint is not necessary, but short video clips (such as creator interviews, news stories, and fan films) should be incorporated into each presentation when available.

Creative Presentation: Alternately, the presentation team can choose to collectively produce a short film about the TV show. Options include an edited selection of clips with voice-over commentary, a series of interviews with viewers, or a fan film.

Book Presentations – 5 points each (Film 6280 only)
Graduate students will read two additional books of their choice, one scholarly book and one work of fiction, and will give short a presentation on each in two separately scheduled meetings with the other graduate students.

Take-Home Midterm – 45 points (Film 4280 and 6280)
The take-home midterm will require you to relate concepts from the readings and lectures to the assigned films, series, novels and comics. Undergraduate and graduate students will take the same exam, but graduate students will be expected to submit more detailed answers. Due March 7.

Take-Home Final – 45 points (Film 4280 and 6280)
The take-home final will be structured just like the midterm, covering the second half of the semester. Due April 30.

Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Office Hours
Office hours are by appointment. I’m usually available to meet before and after every class.

Late Papers
Late midterms are penalized at the rate of 1/2 point per day overdue. Late finals cannot be accepted without an extension.

Rewrites
Rewrites of any midterm question are welcome. The final grade on the question will be the average of the original grade and the rewritten version’s grade. Rewrites of the final are unavailable, but rough drafts of the final can be submitted for feedback through April 23.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Assessment
Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State. Upon completing the course, please take time to fill out the online course evaluation.

Disability
Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

For a Jungian Turn in Comics Studies

Here’s a short “position paper” I wrote for a panel on comics at the Flow media studies conference in Austin:

For a Jungian Turn in Comics Studies

The rise of the new field of comics studies offers the opportunity to reconsider theoretical choices made by earlier forms of media studies. When, in an earlier generation, film studies began looking for models of subjectivity, it turned to the Freudian/Lacanian tradition. Left behind, for the most part, was the very different psychoanalytic perspective developed by Freud’s onetime protégé Carl Jung. While parsing the obsessions of exemplary filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock seemed to require the Oedipal framework of Freud, the work of comparable comic book auteurs such as Alan Moore and Neal Gaiman is in a very different, much more Jungian register. Their model for the psyche begins not with the family romance, but with a multiplicity of intense affects and impulses represented by godlike figures of outsized powers and desires. As these creators recognize, comic books’ heroes are archetypal, their stories mythic, their metaphysics mystical. Turning to Jung gives comics studies access to an invaluable trove of insight into the mythic dimensions of popular culture. In turn, recentering media studies around comics studies offers a chance to reintegrate models of archetype and the numinous into contemporary cultural studies.

Fans and scholars rightly insist that comics are more than just superheroes. But this claim for diversity also includes a hint of disavowal: there’s good reason why superpowered characters have featured so prominently not only in the medium’s most popular works, but also in many of its most powerful and influential ones. Produced by just ink and paper, comics are not indexically bound as photography and film are, and so easily transcend the limits of verisimilitude, making them the ideal visual medium for fantasy. Only now are other media, using CGI technology, able to approach the vastness of this canvas. Even Joss Whedon’s film version of The Avengers, working with a budget north of $100 million, was compelled to save money and effort by setting much of its second act in the stagey confines of the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier. The locations of a comic book, on the other hand, are limited only by the artists’ imaginations.

Comics, then, are ideally suited for representing larger-than-life characteristics in settings far beyond the everyday. In Jungian terms, superheroes are archetypes: representations of primal psychic forces. In Jungian interpretations of myths and fairy tales, individual characters represent archetypal aspects of a single psyche: the Hero, the Mother, the Shadow, and so on. Likewise, stories of superheroes and super villains speak to us today because their characters represent archetypal elements within each of our psyches. Within The Avengers, for example, one might argue that Thor is an image of power, Captain America of duty, Iron Man intellect, and the Bruce Banner/The Hulk the dialectic of repression and aggression. Each of us contains within us the multitudes of the superheroic mythos.

Critics of Jungian interpretation have argued that it is essentialist—that is presumes all cultural texts represent unchanging psychological truths. But contemporary “post-Jungian” critics have pointed to the distinction that Jung draws between “archetype” and “archetypal image.” An archetype is an unrepresentable pattern of energy, stored, for Jung, in the collective unconscious. An archetypal image is the specific embodiment of an archetype in a distinct cultural and historical moment. The archetypal image is where archetype meets ideology. Bringing Jung together with the ideas of Antonio Gramsci, we can see every specific archetypal image as an intervention in the struggle to define the hegemonic meanings attached to an underlying archetype. The representation of Captain America, for instance, has been a space to struggle over the meanings of patriotism—from Jack Kirby’s Avenger slugging Hitler, to Alan Moore’s curdled parody the Comedian, to Whedon’s man out of time. Pairing post-Marxist ideology criticism with post-Jungian analytical theory gives comics studies the tools not just to explain its own medium, but also to map the fantasies and fears at the heart of contemporary popular culture.

Media and Cultural Studies, Spring 2012

COMM 6160/8690, Spring 2012
Thursdays 4:30-7:00 PM, Sparks 321

Ted Friedman
Office: 738 One Park Place South
ted@tedfriedman.com
http://twitter.com/tedfriedman
http://tedfriedman.com

Course Description
What are the political dimensions of popular culture? How does culture reflect, influence, and embody structures of power? Where does hegemony end and resistance begin? This class will engage the interdisciplinary field of Cultural Studies, which attempts to understand the relationship between culture and politics. We’ll be reading both founding theoretical texts and cutting-edge scholarship. We’ll address a range of media, from film and television to music, computer games and romance novels. We’ll look at multiple, intersecting structures of power, including class, nation, gender, and race.

Readings
Class readings will include books and a coursepack of articles. Here are the books you’ll need:

Graeme Turner, British Cultural Studies: An Introduction
Janice Radway, Reading the Romance
One romance novel of your choice
Susan Douglas, The Rise of Enlightened Sexism
Jodi Dean, Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies
Stephen Duncombe, Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy
Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken
Bruno Latour, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods
Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas Frentz, Projecting the Shadow
Jeffrey Kripal, Mutants and Mystics

Most course books should be available at the GSU bookstores. They can also be ordered through online retailers such as amazon.com/student, bn.com, and powells.com. The coursepack is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South).

Podcasts, Screenings and Activities
In addition to readings, some weeks’ assignments will include listening to podcasts, screening films and TV shows, and visiting locations around Atlanta.

Twitter Feed
Relevant news and commentary will be shared with the class via the Twitter hashtag #cultstud. Feel free to respond to tweets or post your own.
Schedule

1/12    The Politics of Culture
In-class screening: Barbie Nation

1/19    Culture and Power
Graeme Tuner, British Cultural Studies: An Introduction: Introduction, Chapter 1
Karl Marx, excerpts from The German Ideology
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01a.htm;
http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/german-ideology/ch01b.htm
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment
as Mass Deception”
http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/SWA/Some_writings_of_Adorno.shtml
Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History”
http://www.sfu.ca/~andrewf/CONCEPT2.html
Watch or listen to Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey, Class 1: “Introduction”
http://davidharvey.org/2008/06/marxs-capital-class-01/
Watch or listen to Paul Fry’s Literary Theory, Class 17: “The Frankfurt School of
Critical Theory”
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/17-the-frankfurt-school-critical/id341652579?i=63753382

1/26    Hegemony and Resistance
Turner, Chapters 2-7, Conclusion
Louis Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses”
http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/althusser/1970/ideology.htm
Antonio Gramsci, “Hegemony, Intellectuals and the State” (CP)
Stuart Hall, “Encoding/Decoding” (CP)

2/2    Cynicism and Utopia
Slavoj Zizek, excerpt from The Sublime Object of Ideology (CP)
Fredric Jameson, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture,” (CP)
Thomas Frank, “New Consensus for Old” (CP)
Richard Dyer, “Entertainment and Utopia” (CP)
Ted Friedman, “Introduction,” Electric Dreams
http://www.tedfriedman.com/electricdreams/2005/02/introduction.php
Michael Berube, “What’s the Matter with Cultural Studies,”
http://chronicle.com/article/Whats-the-Matter-With/48334/
Watch or listen to Paul Fry’s Literary Theory, Class 18: “The Political Unconscious”
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/18-the-political-unconscious/id341652579?i=63753375

2/9    Audience and Gender
Janice Radway, Reading the Romance
Go to a bookstore, buy a romance novel, and read it.

2/16    Postfeminisms
Susan Douglas, The Rise of Enlighted Sexism

2/23    Communicative Capitalism
Jodi Dean, Democracy and Other Neoliberal Fantasies

3/1    No class – spring break

3/8    Fantasy
Stephen Duncombe, Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy

3/15    Play
Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They
Can Change the World

3/22    Science
Bruno Latour, On the Modern Cult of the Factish Gods

3/29    Myth
Janice Hocker Rushing & Thomas S. Frentz, Projecting the Shadow: The Cyborg Hero
in American Film
Watch Blade Runner

4/5    Mysticism
Jeffrey Kripal, Mutants and Mystics: Science Fiction, Superhero Comics,
and the Paranormal

4/12    Research Presentations
No reading

4/19    Research Presentations/Party
No reading

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A+    100-98        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    69-65
A     97-93        B    87-83        C    77-70        F    64-0
A-    92-90        B-    82-80

I. Theorist Discussion – Comm 6160: 15% of final grade; Comm 8690: 10% of final grade
You will lead, with a group, a 30-45 minute discussion of one of the theorists covered in the opening weeks of class. One group member should present a brief (5 minute) biographical introduction, incorporating video clips of the author if available. Each other member should introduce a contemporary media example and suggest how the author’s ideas could be applied to the text. Note: it is not necessary to summarize the reading beyond a brief 1-2 sentence statement of its key arguments. Further exegesis will be developed in lecture and class discussion. The choice of theorists includes: Adorno, Benjamin, Althusser, Gramsci, Hall, Zizek, Jameson and Frank.

II. Book Discussion – 6160: 25% of final grade; 8690: 20% of final grade
You will lead, with a group, discussion of one assigned book. To prepare for the discussion of the reading, research these questions to put the reading in a broader context:

What is the author’s background? What discipline is the author trained in? What else has s/he written? In which journals has s/he published?

What was the reception of the book? How was the book reviewed? What criticisms have been made of the author’s work? How has the author responded? Whom has the author influenced?

Then, meet with your group to prepare for a class discussion. Don’t bother summarizing the work. Rather, concentrate on how the work relates to the key questions we’ll be asking all semester. In addition to the research topics, other subjects for discussion should include:

Methodology: What research methods does the author use? (Possibilities include textual analysis, ethnography, historical research, quantitative social science, etc.) How does the author approach and justify this methodology? What are the advantages and limitations of this methodology?

Theoretical debates: In what theoretical debates does the work intervene? Where does the author stand? Whom does the author criticize? How does this work move the debate forward?

Example of Analysis: Pick one media example that’s either directly addressed by the author, or that can be illuminated by applying the author’s ideas. Show a representative sample from the text (any clip should be no more than 5 minutes). Discuss how the author would (or does) interpret the example. What are the strengths and limitations of this interpretation? What alternate interpretations are possible?

(You don’t need to organize your discussion in the order listed above. It may help to present the example up front, to ground your discussion of methodology and theory. It’s often also a good icebreaker to begin discussion by going around the room, asking everybody to answer a specific question related to their response to the book.)

III. Outside reading presentation – 8690 only: 10% of grade
Doctoral students will read one additional book and give a short (10-15 minute) presentation on the work to the class, summarizing the book’s key arguments, the critical response to the book, and how its ideas relate to the themes of the course. A list of suggested readings will be distributed separately.

IV. Final Project – 50% of final grade
Option 1: Write a paper on a subject relating to the politics of popular culture. 6160: 12-15 pages. 8690: 18-25 pages. Doctoral work will be expected to meet a higher standard of theoretical sophistication.

Option 2: Produce a creative work which engages some of the ideas of the class. The project can be a short film, a screenplay, or a new media work. Along with the project, include a short paper relating your work to ideas from the class. 6160: 3-5 pages; 8690: 8-10 pages. Doctoral work will be expected to meet a higher standard of theoretical sophistication.

For either option, the deadlines are the same:
A one-page prospectus is due February 23. I will schedule individual meetings with you to discuss the prospectus.
You will give a short (10 minute) presentation of your research project on either April 12 or April 19.
The final project is due April 26.

V. Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Office Hours
Office hours are by appointment. I’m usually available to meet before and after every class.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Assessment
Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State. Upon completing the course, please take time to fill out the online course evaluation.

Disability
Students who wish to request accommodation for a disability may do so by registering with the Office of Disability Services. Students may only be accommodated upon issuance by the Office of Disability Services of a signed Accommodation Plan and are responsible for providing a copy of that plan to instructors of all classes in which accommodations are sought.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Marx, Jung & Yoda: The Dialectics of The Force

Here’s a talk about Star Wars and myth that I gave last month  at the Academy of Religious Studies conference in San Francisco. Feedback is welcome – I’m in the process of turning this into the introduction to my book, Centaur Manifesto.

I’m really thrilled to be here at the AAR conference. This is the first time I have been to a conference in religious studies, and I want to admit right off the bat that I’m not a trained scholar in religious studies. My own background is in cultural studies, new media, and critical theory. But I have found more and more that in trying to understand contemporary American culture, it’s impossible to ignore spiritual themes, and that the theoretical models of cultural studies really don’t offer a lot of space to think through questions of spirituality. There are some good and legitimate reasons for this. The Marxist and Freudian hermaneutics of suspicion have been incredibly valuable in uncovering the ideological underpinnings of religious discourses, along with all other discourses. But I’ve come to conclude that they’re not enough to tell the whole story.  I’ve come to this conference because I think a theological turn – or, in psychoanalytic terms, a Jungian turn – can help cultural studies develop a richer vocabulary to talk about the numinous. And at the same time, I do have some hope that some of the ideas that have come out of my own field might be of use to religious studies as well.

I’d like to begin by giving a little context for how I came to this topic. My first book, Electric Dreams, looked at the cultural history of personal computers, and what I argue is that cyberculture in the 1980s and 90s became what I call a utopian sphere: a space to imagine different visions of the future beyond the boundaries of late capitalist ideology. I was inspired by the work of Fredric Jameson, particularly his groundbreaking essay “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture.” Jameson argues that for popular culture texts to capture the imaginations of large audiences, they must include at least glimpses of a better world. But capitalist ideology represses and recontains these utopian impulses, channelling them into consumerism, cynicism, and alienated individualism. For Jameson, the goal of the critic is to rescue and expand upon the utopian visions that have been buried within what he calls The Political Unconscious.

After finishing my first book a few years ago, I began to look more closely at the popular culture of this past decade, and was surprised by what I found. Electric Dreams argued that science fiction was the most influential genre of the 1980s and 1990s, helping to invent and make sense of the transmediated universe that we all live in now. But in this past decade, there’s been a cultural shift that has paralleled the growth of transmedia. These days, I’d argue that it’s the genre of fantasy that has been the most influential to our culture, producing the biggest blockbusters (Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings), the most popular gamespaces (World of Warcraft), and, to my mind, the most interesting genre authors

Fantasy works differently than science fiction. Science fiction speaks in the register of science and technology. But the central trope of fantasy is magic – a mystical force beyond the boundraries of Englightenment rationality. If science fiction celebrates logos, fantasy is the genre of mythos. As Arthur C. Clarke points out, any technology sufficiently advanced beyond our own is indistinguishable from magic. In this sense, all science fiction is part of the larger fantastical, mythological tradition. It’s just that the technological gloss of SF provides a cover of rationality over its magical, mystical core. Lately, that cover seems to be slipping. The rise of popular fantasy, I’d suggest, reflects what Christopher Partridge calls The Re-Enchantment of the West, in a play on Max Weber’s famous description of modernity as “The Dis-Enchantment of the World.” The desires underlying many fantasy texts, then, are not only the visions of a more just and egalitarian post-capitalist society that Jameson identifies, but also repressed visions of the spiritual – of mytical, gnostic experience.

Now, it may seem strange to describe spirituality as a repressed subtext in American popular culture. After all, the US remains one of the most religious societies in the world, an ongoing repudiation of the secularization thesis. But I’d suggest that the mystical, gnostic sensiblity of popular fantasy is not prominently represented in the American public sphere. This is the argument religious studies scholar Jeffrey Kripal makes in his fascinating new study of comic books, Mutants and Mystics. Furthermore, the core audience for these texts – the kinds of geeks and techies like myself who attend the San Diego Comic Con and play MMORPGs – are exactly those whose everyday worlds are most structured by the capitalist technocratic rationality of binary codes and spreadsheets. In this context, the mystical vision of fantasy represents what Jung would call a compensatory myth – not, as classical ideology theory would have it, because it mystifies and justifies capitalism, but rather because, like a recurring dream, it points to a psychological need that is not being met – a potential transformation of the self, and of society, that challenges the illusion of a stable, complete ego.

In other words, there is a spiritual impulse that is repressed in technocratic postmodern American culture. But that human need does not go away. The return of the repressed shows up in our shared fantasies. Jorge Louis Borges suggested that the theological is a part of the fantastical genre.  I’d like to suggest the converse: that we consider popular fantasy as a form of folk theology.

Another inspiriation for my work, and for much of transmedia studies in general, has been Donna Haraway’s hugely influential 1986 essay, “A Manifesto for Cyborgs.” Haraway turned to the figure of the cyborg to argue that it offered a way to reimagine the intersection between the human and the machine, between nature and technology. She saw the cyborg as a figure who could challenge the presumptions of many on the Left at the time who saw technology as the enemy. Instead, she suggested that films like Blade Runner offerred ways to imagine reappropriating technological tools to empower the disnenfranchised. Haraway’s ideas, controversial in their time, have become a kind of common sense today; I don’t think technophobia on the Left is nearly the problem it was when she was discussing it. Instead, just as science fiction was dismissed by most of Haraway’s peers in the 1980s as escapism, today it is fantasy that is often dismissed as reactionary nostalgia. In fact, both the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter movies first came out in the fall of 2001, shortly after 9/11, and many critics  argued that these films were so popular at this moment because they offer a safe, reassuring retreat into a fantasy world. I don’t think that’s completely wrong, but I don’t think it tells nearly the whole story. If in the 1980s what was needed was a cyborg manifesto, today what’s needed is what I call a centaur manifesto, a similar embrace of a liminal figure. The centaur is on the boundary between human and animal, between nature and culture, and even on the boundary between reality and fantasy, between the scientific world of everyday life and the fantastical world of mythology. Just as Haraway saw the cyborg as an inspiring figure to imagine how we could rework science fiction in new, more empowered ways, I think the centaur similarly can be that type of fantasy figure.

To flesh out the implications of this centaur manifesto, I’ll be turning now to a specific text. The movie I want to talk about might be a little surprising because at first glance we might presume it’s science fiction: Star Wars. Star Wars is on the precipice of science fiction and fantasy. It has spaceships and light sabers, but it’s also a story of a knight who rescues a princess. It begins like a fairy tale: “Long ago in a galaxy far, far away.” And most of all, it’s a world in which magic overcomes technology, as Luke turns off his computer and destroys the Death Star by trusting instead in the Force.

The formative religious experience of my childhood was Star Wars – certainly more so, I have to admit, than Hebrew School or my Bar Mitzvah. When Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke, “The Force . . . is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together,” I could feel The Force tingle in my own fingertips. More than once I attempted to move objects with only the power of my mind. They never moved, but I can’t say I was ever disappointed – I think something in me moved, as I recognized that my mind and the outside world in were in some ways part of an indivisible whole. Years later, I would rediscover the flavor of those experiences when I began meditating regularly.

The power of The Force, I think, has a lot to do with the endurance of the Star Wars mythos, over three decades past the release of the first film. Star Wars was one of the first transmedia blockbusters, spawning books, comics, videogames, lunchboxes, and most lucratively, toys. All of these spinoffs meant that watching the movie was only the beginning of the experience – kids like me could move on to tell our own stories, as we did for all the years between 198tk and 1999 when no new films were being made.

The Force is a fictional construction, but at the same time it is a very powerful model for thinking about the numinous in our lives. In fact, its very fictional nature may be part of what has made it so resonant and lasting. In Jungian terms, we could say that for Star Wars fans, The Force is an archetypal image rather than the archetype itself. While there are a few people who mark ‘Jedi’ under religion on their census forms, most people don’t explicitly believe in the theology of Star Wars. Rather, they find Star Wars a set of metaphors that can help them conceive of their own sense of the spiritual or the numinous without feeling constrained by the doctrines of traditional religions. In this sense, Star Wars is one example of what Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead call The Spiritual Revolution, in which more and more Westerners define themselves as spiritual rather than religious.

So, how does cultural studies theorize texts like Star Wars? In Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins’ agenda-setting work on transmedia, Jenkins recognizes the influence of Joseph Campbell’s ideas about myth not only on Star Wars, but on the many other screenplays that have been inspired by Campbell’s Hero With a Thousand Faces. But Jenkins characterizes Campbell’s ideas in a very distinctive way. He writes: “Audience familiarity with this basic plot structure allows scriptwriters to skip over transitional or expository sequences, throwing us directly in the action.” In other words, Jenkins finds Campbell important as a structuralist who codified the generic expectations that make these heroic narratives easier to parse. But Jenkins passes over exactly what’s most important about myth to Campbell: the mystical. As Campbell put it: “Without the mystical, myth is just ideology.” For Campbell, as a Jungian, the hero’s journey is fundamentally about the descent into the unconscious to engage the numinous – what he calls “the mystery which is the ground of our being.”

So what would it mean to take the numinous more seriously in cultural studies? Is there a way to articulate spirituality within the set of ideas that have been so influential in cultural studies?

The circuit of culture is Paul du Gay’s very influential model of the five nodes through which every culural object passes. Where does the numinous fit in this model? Spirituality is certainly an aspect of personal identity. It’s also, as I’ve been arguing, a key theme of textual representation, even if remains as subtext. But I’d suggest the numinous – a vision of the transcendental – also informs the activities of production, consumption, and regulation. Another way to rework the circuit of culture is this:

[To come: image of a Mandala of Culture. Submissions welcome.]

Here is a Mandala of Culture, which transforms Du Gay’s two-dimentional circle into a three-dimensional sphere. It conceives of the numinous as the ground, the context in which all the circuit goes around. The numinous in itself is not directly accessible. In Jung’s terms, it is the realm of archetypes. It enters our world through the circuit of culture, where it becomes an object of representation, redefinition, and struggle. The circuit of culture is where archetype meets ideology.

I like Jung’s term “the numinous” because it locates the spiritual in the unconscious, the unrepresentable. We could also call this axis the sublime, or even Lacan’s Real – in some sense, I’d argue that all these terms are pointing to the same thing: that part of the humand experience beyond Enlightenment rationality.

[Note – this is the fuzziest, most speculative part of the talk. More to come in Centaur Manifesto.]

With this model in place, let’s turn back to Star Wars and ask how we might integrate the numinous into cultural studies. One place to start is to point out that Joseph Campbell was not George Lucas’s only guru. As I was doing research for this paper, I came across a series of fascinating talks by Alan Watts, who was a very influential popularizer of Zen Buddhism and Taoism in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. During the period that George Lucas was writing Star Wars, Watts lived in the Bay area, speaking often at places like the Esalen Institute and on his weekly public radio show. The vocal, physical, and philosphical resemblance between Watts and Alec Guinness’s portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobi is so unmistakeable that many fans have concluded that Watts was “the real Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

In this context, then, we can see the Force not only as a generalized religious metaphor, but also more specifically as an example of the popular transmission of Eastern spiritual ideas to the West in the second half of the Twentieth Century. But Lucas’s Force is not quite the same thing as the Tao. In Taoism, the model of yin and yang reflects the interdependence and interpenetration of all things. Dark and light depend on and need each other. One cannot exist without the other, just as any figure depends on the negative space of its background. In George Lucas’s version of the Force, while the language of dark and light remains, it’s reincorporated into a much more Western, Manichean vision of absolute good and evil. There is the light side of Obi-Wan and Luke, and there is the dark side of Darth Vader and The Emperor. So while on the one hand George Lucas brought a Taoist vision to the United States, on the other hand, in the process he robbed it of much of what makes it distinctive, complex and resonant. For this, it’s been justly criticized for validating Ronald Reagan’s attack on the Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire” in the 1980s, and George W. Bush’s similar demonization of an “Axis of Evil” two decades later.

Having said that, however, if we then begin to think about Star Wars as a transmediated text, what is significant not only its original texual representation, but also its reappropriation and reworking by its audiences. If we think of the cultural studies model of an active audience negotiating and resisting dominant codes, then we can see George Lucas’s original vision of the Force as only a first step towards a more complex, collectively produced theological vision.

I work in downtown Atlanta. Just up the block once a year is the Dragon Con annual convention where science fiction and fantasy fans come from all over the world to dress up as their favorite characters. The most popular characters, by far, are the Star Wars Storm Troopers. Every year the Storm Troopers parade down Peachtree Street. This may seem surprising: why, we may wonder, would so many fans want to dress up, not as heroes like Luke Skywalker or Obi-Wan Kenobi, but instead as part of the forces of darkness? The answer, I think, is that for Star Wars fans, the metaphysics of Star Wars are more complex than it is in Lucas’s original formulation. The dark side represents not simply evil, but the shadow side of our own personalities – the attraction towards violence, aggression, and power that we repress in our daily lives. The play space of the Dragon Con convention and the Star Wars transmedia universe provides a safe, delineated way to engage with that shadow side. And in the process, to create a more complex moral vision: to embrace and show sympathy for the devil.

What Star Wars fans are doing is what we could call vernacular theology: challenging Lucas’s dilution of Alan Watts’s Taoist vision, returning it to a more complex model that has kept the power of the Force alive after 35 years.

Issues & Perspectives in Communication Theory, Fall 2011

Comm 6010, Fall 2011
Class: Tuesdays 4:30-7:00 PM, 1020 One Park Place South
Office: 738 One Park Place South
email: ted@tedfriedman.com
website: http://www.tedfriedman.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tedfriedman

Course Description

Communication is a wide-ranging field encompassing the study of speech, journalism, film, television, video games, the internet, and every other medium through which people exchange information. Scholars bring an array of approaches to their work, from historical digging to quantitative data collection to ethnographic interviews to textual analysis. And they address a broad range of issues, from aesthetics to psychology to politics and beyond.

Communication is less a single discipline than an interdisciplinary meeting ground. At the same time, a series of key conversations runs across all these varied areas of study. This course is designed to help new Communication M.A. students get their bearings in this rich, complex field, as you begin your graduate study. It will introduce you to the ideas, arguments, and ongoing questions which organize our field.

Readings

The course-pack for this class is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South).  Additional optional readings will be shared via the Twitter hashtag #commtheory.

Class Schedule

8/23    Introduction

8/30    Communication and Culture
James Carey, “A Cultural Approach to Communication,” Communication as Culture (London: Routledge, 1992): 13-36:
http://www3.niu.edu/acad/gunkel/coms465/carey.html
Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”:
http://hypergeertz.jku.at/HyperGeertz-1970-1979.htm
Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”:

Click to access mechanicalrepro1.pdf


Ted Friedman, “Introduction,” Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture (NYU, 2005): http://www.tedfriedman.com/electricdreams/2005/02/introduction.php

9/6    New Media
Henry Jenkins, “Quentin Tarantino’s Star Wars? Digital Cinema, Media Convergence, and Participatory Culture”: http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/starwars.html
Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail,” Wired 12.10 (October 2004):
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html
Marcus Boon, “Introduction” and “What Is Copying?” In Praise of Copying (Harvard UP, 2010), 1-40: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/features/boon/
Ted Friedman, “The Rise of the Simulation Game,” Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture (NYU, 20005): https://tedfriedman.com/electric-dreams/electric-dreams-chapter-six-the-rise-of-the-simulation-game/

9/13    Narrative and Genre
Walter R. Fisher, “Narrative as a Human Communication Paradigm: The Case of Public Moral Argument,” Communication Monographs 51 (1984): 1-23.
Hayden White, “The Question of Narrative in Contemporary Historical Theory,” The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987): 26-57.
Thomas Schatz, “Film Genre and the Genre Film,” Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981): 14-41.

9/20    Semiotics
Kaja Silverman, “From Sign to Subject, A Short History,” The Subject of Semiotics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983): 3-53.
Jonathan Culler, “Saussure’s Theory of Language,” Ferdinand de Saussure, rev. ed. (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986): 27-64.
Christian Metz, “Some Points in the Semiotics of the Cinema,” in Gerald Mast, Marshall Cohen, and Leo Braudy (eds.), Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 4th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), 168-178.

9/27    Ideology
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, “The Ruling Class and the Ruling Ideas,” in Durham and Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001): 39-42.
Raymond WIlliams, “Base and Superstructure in Marxist Cultural Theory,” in Durham and Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001), 152-165.
Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”:
http://www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/DATABASES/SWA/Some_writings_of_Adorno.shtml
Roland Barthes, “Myth Today,” Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 109-159.

10/4    Hegemony and Resistance
Stuart Hall, “Encoding, Decoding,” in Simon During (ed.), The Cultural Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 2007), 90-103.
Celeste Condit, “Hegemony in a Mass-Mediated Society: Condordance About Reproductive Technologies,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 11 (1994): 205-230.
Dana Cloud, “Hegemony or Concordance? The Rhetoric of Tokenism in ‘Oprah’ Winfrey’s Rags-to-Riches Biography,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 13 (1996): 115-137.
Celeste Condit, “Hegemony, Condordance and Capitalism: Reply to Cloud,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 13 (1996): 382-384.
Dana Cloud, “Concordance, Complexity and Conservatism: Rejoinder to Condit,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 14 (1997): 193-97.
Celeste Condit, “Clouding the Issues? The Ideal and the Material in Human Communication,” Critical Studies in Mass Communication 14 (1997): 197-200.
Research proposals due

10/11    The Public Sphere
Jurgen Habermas, “The Public Sphere: An Encyclopedia Article,” in Durham and Kellner (eds.), Media and Cultural Studies: Key Works (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2001): 102-107.
Phaedra Pezzulo, “Resisting ‘National Breast Cancer Awareness Month’: The Rhetoric of Counterpublics and their Cultural Performances,” Quarterly Journal of Speech 89 (2003): 345-365
Bent Flyvbjerg, “Habermas and Foucault: Thinkers for Civil Society?” British Journal of Sociology 49.2 (June 1998): 210-233:

Click to access CIVSOC5%200PRINTBJS.pdf

10/18    Psychoanalysis
Kaja Silverman, “The [Semiotic] Subject in Freud and Lacan,” The Subject of Semiotics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983), 126-193.
Barbara Creed, “Film and Psychoanalysis,” in John Hill and Pamela Gibson (eds.), The Oxford Guide to Film Studies (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 77-90.
Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz, “Integrating Ideology and Archetype in Rhetorical Criticism,” The Quarterly Journal of Speech 77 (1991): 385-406.
Ted Friedman, “Jung and Lost,” Flow 9.12 (May 2009):
http://flowtv.org/2009/05/jung-and-lost-ted-friedman%C2%A0%C2%A0georgia-state-university-atlanta%C2%A0%C2%A0/

10/25    Gender
Ann Brooks, “Postfeminist Variations within Media and Film Theory,” Postfeminisms: Feminism, Cultural Theory and Cultural Forms (London: Routledge, 1997): 163-188.
Judith Butler, “Preface (1999)” and “Preface (1990),” Gender Trouble (New York: Routledge, 1999), vii-xxxiii.
Alexander Doty, “There’s Something Queer Here,” Making Things Perfectly Queer (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993): 1-16.

11/1    Race and National Identity
Michael Omi & Howard Winant, “Racial Formation,” Racial Formation in the United States (New York: Routledge, 1994): 53-76.
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities chapters 1-3 (New York: Verso, 1983), 1-46.
Arjun Appadurai, “Disjunctures and Difference in the Global Cultual Economy,” Modernity at Large (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 27-47.

11/8    Postmodernity, Posthumanism and Transhumanism
Fredric Jameson, “The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism,” Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Duke UP, 1990), 1-52.
Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology , and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century,” Simians, Cyborgs and Women (Routledge, 1990), 149-181, 243-249.
David Abram, “The Ecology of Magic,” The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-Than Human World (Vintage, 1997):
http://www.primitivism.com/ecology-magic.htm
David Abram, “Language and the Ecology of Sensuous Experience: An Essay with an Unconstructive Footnote”: http://www.aislingmagazine.com/aislingmagazine/articles/TAM33/monotheism/DavidAbram.html
Ted Friedman, “The Politics of Magic,” Scope 14 (June 2009):
http://www.scope.nottingham.ac.uk/article.php?issue=14&id=1138
Ted Friedman, “Vertigo,” Flow 10.08 (September 19, 2009):
http://flowtv.org/2009/09/vertigoted-friedman-georgia-state-university/

11/15    No reading – research presentations begin

11/22    Thanksgiving Break – no class

11/29    No reading – research presentations continue/party at Ted’s house

Final papers due 12/6

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A+    100-98        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    69-65
A     97-93        B    87-83        C    77-70        F    64-0
A-    92-90        B-    82-80

I. Co-lead discussions of three readings– 15% of final grade for each reading (45% total)
You will sign up to co-lead discussions of three readings over the course of the semester. The discussion of each reading will be co-led by two students. One leader is responsible for presenting background information on the author(s) and the article. For that presentation, you should research the author’s background, and survey the influence of the essay via http://scholar.google.com. If available, incorporate a short video clip of the author speaking. The second leader is responsible for introducing a contemporary media example, and suggesting how the article’s ideas might be applied to the example. Together, the leaders should prepare a short 1-page summary of the key facts about the author(s), article, and media example. Note: it is not necessary to summarize the article beyond brief 1-2 sentence statements of its key arguments. Further exegesis will be developed in lecture and class discussion.

II. Final Paper – 55% of final grade
Write a 15-20 page paper applying one or more theoretical approaches from the class to an object of study in your area. For example, you might develop a semiotic analysis of a news program, a psychoanalytic reading of a film, or a Marxist analysis of a political speech. You should demonstrate your understanding of important concepts and terms, and you should use the concepts to provide new insight into the object you’re examining.

• A one-page proposal is due October 11. I will schedule individual meetings
with you to discuss the proposal.
• You will give a short (10 minute) presentation of your research project on November 15 or 29.
• The final project is due December 6.

III. Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Academic Honesty
The university’s policy on academic honesty is published in On Campus: The Undergraduate Co-Curricular Affairs Handbook, available online at http://www.gsu.edu/~wwwcam. The policy prohibits plagiarism, cheating on examinations, unauthorized collaboration, falsification, and multiple submissions. Violation of the policy will result in failing the class, in addition to disciplinary sanctions.

The Internet makes it easy to plagiarize, but also easy to track down plagiarism. Bottom line: Don’t plagiarize. It’s wrong, and it’s not worth it. There’s always a better way. Cite all your sources, put all direct quotations in quotation marks, and clearly note when you are paraphrasing other authors’ work.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Course Evaluation
Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State University.  Upon completing the course, please take the time to fill out the online course evaluation.

American Film History II, Fall 2011

Film 4960/6960, Fall 2011
Class: Tuesdays & Thursdays 1:00-2:15, Classroom South 426
Screenings: Thursdays at 2:30, Arts & Humanities 406
Office: 738 One Park Place South
email: ted@tedfriedman.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/tedfriedman
website: http://www.tedfriedman.com

Course Description

How do movies reflect and influence American life? How has Hollywood shaped Americans’ image of the world, and the world’s view of Americans? What are the alternatives to Hollywood’s stories? What is the future of film in a digital age?

In attempting to answer these questions, this class will trace the history of American movies from the 1960s to the present. Along the way, we’ll look at the semiotics, aesthetics, economics, and politics of Hollywood movies and their independent alternatives.

Readings

The readings for the class include one required book, a coursepack, and a choice of movie memoirs from which you will select one to read. In addition, graduate students will choose two additional scholarly books to read and discuss in two additional meetings outside of class.

The required text is Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media Convergence by Chuck Tryon (Rutgers, 2009).

The coursepack for this class is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South).

The choice of movie memoirs includes:
William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade (Warner, 1983).
Robert Rodriguez, Rebel Without a Crew (Plume, 1996).
Sidney Lumet, Making Movies (Vintage, 1996).
John Gregory Dunne, Monster (Random House, 1997).
Brian Michael Bendis, Fortune and Glory: A True Hollywood Comic Book Story (Oni, 2000)
Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, Writing Movies for Fun & Profit (Touchstone, 2011).

In addition, optional movie news items and reviews will be distributed through the Twitter hashtag #afh2. Find all recent tweets by searching http://twitter.com for #afh2, and feel free to share your own links and comments by including #afh2 in any tweet.

Class Schedule

8/23    Introduction
In-class screening: opening of Saving Private Ryan (Speilberg, 1998).

8/25    Hollywood Today
Malcolm Gladwell, “The Formula”:
http://gladwell.com/2006/2006_10_16_a_formula.html
Christopher Anderson, “The Long Tail”:
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

8/30    Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Wyatt, 2011)
David Bordwell, “Intensified Continuity: Visual Style in Contemporary
American Film,” Film Quarterly 55.3 (Spring 2002): 16-28.
Toby Miller, Nitin Govil, John McMurria, Richard Maxwell and Ting Wang, “Introduction,” Global Hollywood 2 (BFI Publishing, 2005), 1-49.

9/1    Moviegoing Today
Chuck Tryon, Reinventing Cinema (Rutgers, 2009): Introduction, Chapters 1, 3, 6.
Tad Friend, “Funny Like a Guy,” The New Yorker, April 11, 2011.

9/6    Planet of the Apes (Schaffer, 1968)
Eric Greene, “Planet of the Apes” and “Urban Riots and Ape Revolution,” Planet of the Apes as American Myth (McFarland, 1996), 21-54, 78-113.
Michael Atkinson, “You May Not Like What You Find: The Planet of the Apes Cycle,” Ghosts in the Machine: The Dark Hear of Pop Cinema (Limelight, 2004), 7-15.

9/8    Body Genres
Carol J. Clover, “Her Body, Himself,” Men, Women and Chainsaws (Princeton, 1992), 21-64.
In-class screening: The American Nightmare (Simon, 2000)

9/13    The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)
Robert Ray, “Introduction,” “Left and Right Cycles” and “The Godfather and Taxi Driver,” A Certain Tendency in the Hollywood Cinema, 1930-1980 (Princeton, 1985), 3-21, 296-360.

9/15    The Hollywood Renaissance
Yannis Tzioumakis, “The New Hollywood and the Independent Hollywood,” American Independent Cinema: An Introduction (Rutgers, 2006), 169-191.
In-class screening: American Cinema: The Film School Generation (Klarer, 2000).

9/20    Jaws (Speilberg, 1975)
Janice Hocker Rushing and Thomas S. Frentz, “Introduction,” “The Hunter Myth” and “Jaws: Faces of the Shadow,” Projecting the Shadow: The Cyborg Hero in American Film (University of Chicago Press, 1995), 1-8, 52-99.
Thomas Schatz, “The New Hollywood,” in Jim Collins, Hilary Radner, and Ava Preacher Collins, eds., Film Theory Goes to the Movies (Routledge, 1993), 8-36.

9/22    Blaxploitation
Ed Guerrero, “The Rise and Fall of Blaxploitation,” from Framing Blackness: The African-American Image in Film, excerpted in Movies and American Society, ed. Steven J. Ross (Blackwell, 2002), 250-273.
In-class screening: Baadasssss Cinema (Julien, 2002).

9/27    Real Life (Brooks, 1979)
Pick one of the following memoirs to read (and discuss on the midterm):
William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade (Warner, 1983).
Robert Rodriguez, Rebel Without a Crew (Plume, 1996).
Sidney Lumet, Making Movies (Vintage, 1996).
John Gregory Dunne, Monster (Random House, 1997).
Brian Michael Bendis, Fortune and Glory: A True Hollywood Comic Book Story (Oni, 2000)
Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, Writing Movies for Fun & Profit (Touchstone, 2011).

9/29    Graduate Presentations

10/4    Valley Girl (Coolidge, 1983)
Robin Wood, “Papering the Cracks: Fantasy and Ideology in the Reagan Era” and “Teens, Parties and Rollercoasters: A Genre of the 1990s,” Hollywood: From Vietnam to Reagan…and Beyond (Columbia, 2003), 144-167, 309-332.

10/6    Director Presentations
Take-home midterm due (presenters have extension until 10/11)

10/11    Die Hard (McTiernan, 1988)
Susan Jeffords, “Hard Bodies: The Reagan Heroes,” Hard Bodies (Rutgers University Press, 1994): 24-63.
Susan Faludi, “Fatal and Fetal Visions: The Backlash at the Movies,” Backlash (Crown, 1991): 112-139.

10/13    Director presentations

10/18    Guest speaker: Chuck Tryon
Chuck Tryon, Reinventing Cinema: Chapters 2, 4, Conclusion.

10/20    Slacker (Linklater, 1991)
Michael Z. Newman, “Indie Cinema Viewing Strategies” and “Games of Narrative Form” (Columbia, 2011), 21-47, 182-220.
Yannis Tzioumakis, “The Institutionalization of American Independent Cinema,” American Independent Cinema: An Introduction (Rutgers, 2006), 246-280.

10/25    Bamboozled (Lee, 2000)
Nelson George, excerpts from Blackface: Reflections on African-Americans and the Movies (Perennial, 1995).
In-class screening: Classified X

10/27    Director Presentations

11/1    Brokeback Mountain (Lee, 2005)
Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffin, “Sexuality and American Film,” America on Film (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009): 303-355.

11/3    Hollywood Sexuality
In-class screening: The Celluloid Closet

11/8    The Hurt Locker (Bigelow, 2008)
Stephen Prince, “Battleground Iraq” and “No End in Sight,” Firestorm: American Film in the Age of Terrorism (Columbia, 2009), 173-233, 281-309.

11/10    Director Presentations

11/15    Winter’s Bone (Granik, 2010)
Chuck Tryon, Reinventing Cinema, Chapter 5.
Search for blog posts about Winter’s Bone and read at least six.

11/17    Director Presentations

Thanksgiving Break – No Class 11/22, 11/24

11/29    Class Choice
Reading TBA

12/1    Director Presentations

Take-home Final due 12/8

Screenings

You are responsible for viewing the assigned film before class each week. Screenings are Thursdays at 2:30 in 406 Arts & Humanities.

8/25    No screening in 406 – go see Rise of the Planet of the Apes, now playing in theaters
9/1    Planet of the Apes
9/8    The Godfather
9/15    Jaws
9/22    Real Life
9/29    Valley Girl
10/6    Die Hard
10/13    Slacker
10/20    Bamboozled
10/27    Brokeback Mountain
11/3    The Hurt Locker
11/10    Winter’s Bone
11/17    Class choice – film TBD
11/24    No screening – Thanksgiving Break
12/1    No screening

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A+    100-98        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    69-65
A     97-93        B    87-83        C    77-70        F    64-0
A-    92-90        B-    82-80

Presentation – 10 Points

Film 6960: Graduate students will each choose a scholarly book on American Film to read and present to the class in a 15-20 minute presentation.

Film 4960: With a partner, undergraduate students will research and present a 15-20 minute discussion of a contemporary American filmmaker. A list of potential directors is attached. The presentation should include the following parts:

1. One partner will begin by presenting a brief overview of the director’s work, with an emphasis on key films which demonstrate what makes the director’s work distinctive and innovative. Focus on bringing to class up to speed on what they should know about the director in order to have an informed discussion of the clip. If at all possible, include a short clip (under 5 minutes) of the director discussing his or her own work, from a DVD Special Feature, YouTube clip, documentary, or other source.

2. Screen a short film clip (under 5 minutes) selected by both partners to exemplify the director’s style. Unless you choose the alternate presentation, use one continuous clip.

3. The other partner will then present a short analysis of the clip. Choose 1-3 film elements, and discuss in detail how each element functions in the clip. Rewind and replay selections from the clip, or pause on still images, to highlight key moments. (Be sure to prepare by noting in advance the time marks for moments you want to highlight.)

4. Class discussion.

5. At the end of class, hand in a list of your group’s sources. At least five distinct sources are required from each group. (You don’t need to specifically discuss all five sources during your presentation – the goal is that you dig around enough to find the most useful material.) Possible sources include books, journal articles, interviews, documentaries, DVD commentary tracks, and online videos. Wikipedia can be a useful launching pad for your research but does not in itself count towards your five sources.

Alternate presentation: if you choose, you may produce a video presentation on your director in place of the spoken presentation. Possible video projects include an edited selection of clips with commentary, interviews with viewers, a fan film, or a trailer mashup. Video equipment and training are available at GSU’s Digital Aquarium in the Student Center.

Take-Home Midterm – 45 points
The take-home midterm will require you to relate concepts from the readings and lectures to the films screened in the first half of the semester. Due in class October 6.

Take-Home Final – 45 points
The take-home final will be structured just like the midterm, covering the second half of the semester. Due December 8.

Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Re-Writes and Makeup Tests
Opportunities for revision and improvement will be available for the midterm and the presentation. In addition, I will look at optional drafts of the final submitted on or before December 1.

Late and Unsubmitted Papers
Late papers will be marked off by ½ point for every day overdue unless an extension is agreed upon before the due date. Any unsubmitted papers will receive a 0. Likewise, any unanswered exam questions will receive a 0. So, if you answer only 2 out of 3 required exam questions, you will get a 0 on the third question.

Academic Honesty
The university’s policy on academic honesty is attached. The policy prohibits plagiarism, cheating on examinations, unauthorized collaboration, falsification, and multiple submissions. Violation of the policy will result in failing the class, in addition to disciplinary sanctions.

The Internet makes it easy to plagiarize, but also easy to track down plagiarism. Bottom line: Don’t plagiarize. It’s wrong, and it’s not worth it. There’s always a better way. Cite all your sources, put all direct quotations in quotation marks, and clearly note when you are paraphrasing other authors’ work.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Course Evaluation
Your constructive assessment of this course plays an indispensable role in shaping education at Georgia State University.  Upon completing the course, please take the time to fill out the online course evaluation.

Director List

Note: This is only a partial list. Feel free to choose any other director who’s made English-language films since World War II, with one exception: directors of films screened for class are off limits, since they’re already covered.

Woody Allen
Robert Altman
Paul Thomas Anderson
Allison Anders
Kenneth Anger
Judd Apatow
Greg Araki
Darren Aronofsky
Hal Ashby
Ralph Bakshi
Paul Bartel
Kathryn Bigelow
Lizzie Borden
Danny Boyle
Stan Brakhage
Albert Brooks
Mel Brooks
Charles Burnett
Tim Burton
James Cameron
Jane Campion
John Cassavetes
Martha Coolidge
Francis Ford Coppalla
Sophia Coppalla
Roger Corman
Alex Cox
Wes Craven
David Cronenberg
Cameron Crowe
Julie Dash
Ossie Davis
Tamra Davis
Guillermo del Toro
Jonathan Demme
Brian DePalma
Tom DiCillo
Atom Egoyan
Bobby and Peter Farrelly
Abel Ferrara
David Fincher
Stephen Frears
William Friedkin
Sam Fuller
Terry Gilliam
Michael Gondry
F. Gary Gray
David Gordon Green
Paul Greengrass
Christopher Guest
Mary Harron
Hal Hartley
Amy Heckerling
Albert and Allen Hughes
Henry Jaglom
Spike Jonze
Neil Jordan
Jon Jost
Harmony Korine
Stanley Kubrick
Neil LaBute
John Lassiter
David Lean
Barry Levinson
Doug Liman
Richard Linklater
Ken Loach
Sidney Lumet
David Lynch
Terrence Malick
Michael Mann
Elaine May
George Miller
Michael Moore
Errol Morris
Mira Nair
Gregory Nava
Mike Nichols
Victor Nunez
Alexander Payne
Sam Peckinpaugh
Arthur Penn
Sidney Poitier
Roman Polanski
Alex Proyas
Sam Raimi
Rob Reiner
Tim Robbins
Robert Rodriguez
George Romero
Eli Roth
Alan Rudolph
David O. Russell
Nancy Savoca
John Sayles
Michael Schultz
Martin Scorcese
Susan Seidelman
M. Night Shyamalan
Bryan Singer
John Singleton
Jack Smith
Kevin Smith
Stephen Sodebergh
Todd Solondz
Penelope Spheeris
Whit Stillman
Quentin Tarantino
Julien Temple
Rose Troche
Melvin Van Peebles
Gus Van Sandt
Lars von Trier
Larry and Andy Wachowski
Wayne Wang
Andy Warhol
John Waters
Forest Whitaker
Fredric Wiseman
John Woo
Boaz Yakin
Robert Zemeckis
Rob Zombie

New Interview on the Diet Soap Philosophy Podcast

SF writer Douglas Lain interviewed me for his philosophy podcast, Diet Soap. We talk about myth, ideology and flying saucers:

The essay of mine we talk about, “Myth, the Numinous and Cultural Studies,” is part of the book I’m working on, A Centaur Manifesto: Mythos & Logos on the Commons. I have more to say about Jung in “Jung and Lost,” and more on centaurs & cyborgs in The Politics of Magic.”

What I’ve Been Up to the Last Five Years

I recently had to write up what I’ve been working on over the last five years for my “post-tenure dossier,” so I thought I’d excerpt that here to explain how I got from Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture to Centaur Manifesto: Mythos & Logos on the Commons. The language is pretty jargon-heavy and a little stilted, a function of the three-page limit and institutional context. One of my goals is to write the book itself in a much looser, more direct and conversational voice, closer to the way I try to be in the classroom. In fact, transcribing and editing my lectures is the next step in getting Centaur Manifesto written. I’d appreciate any feedback, either in the comments below or via Twitter, where I’m @tedfriedman.

—-

My first book, Electric Dreams, was largely inspired by the rise of “cyberpunk” science fiction in the 1980s and 1990s. It was a cyberpunk author, William Gibson, who coined the term “cyberspace,” and science fiction both influenced the development of computer technologies and provided the richest exploration of their potential consequences. By 2000, the subcultural sensibility first expressed in Gibson’s novels had become ubiquitous in the form of The Matrix and its sequels.

In the twenty-first century, however, a cultural shift appeared to be occurring. The blockbuster genre of the 2000s was not science fiction, but fantasy, in the form of the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises. At the same time, the energy of cyberpunk appeared to be spent, and the most vital and influential genre writers were emerging instead out of fantasy fiction and comics.

Fascinated by this development, I began to research the history of the fantasy genre, and to search for new theoretical models to help explain the shift from science fiction to fantasy. I began my work on fantasy media with “The Politics of Magic: Fantasy, Technology & Nature,” which was published in 2009 in Scope, an online peer-reviewed media studies journal published by the University of Nottingham. I argue in the essay that the trope of magic is a powerful tool for making sense of computer technologies. A computer program is a kind of spell, deploying highly-structured language to allow the user to transcend the constraints of time, space and gravity within cyberspace. At the same time, the concept of magic is rooted in the ancient practices and beliefs of animism, and the contemporary appeal of fantasy suggests a deep cultural desire to return to a more rooted relationship to nature in the context of global environmental crisis.

In “The Politics of Magic,” I discuss the influence of feminist scholar Donna Haraway’s 1986 essay “Manifesto for Cyborgs,” which called on technophobic theorists to engage the oft-ignored genre of science fiction. I suggest that the time is ripe for a “Centaur Manifesto” to similarly address fantasy, which today is often likewise dismissed as mere escapism. Haraway picked the figure of the cyborg because it is a hybrid creature on the border between human and machine, reflecting how all of our lives are dependent upon and intertwined with technology. Similarly, the centaur is a magical hybrid of human and animal, culture and nature.

In addition to Haraway’s ideas, “The Politics of Magic” incorporates the work of historian of science Morris Berman, phenomenological ecocritic David Abram, and actor-network theorist Bruno Latour. Looking to dig deeper into the historical roots of fantasy, I began researching theories of myth, a concept which once held great sway in critical theory, but which has more recently fallen into disrepute among poststructuralist scholars wary of essentializing metanarratives. I turned first to Joseph Campbell, whose Hero with a Thousand Faces has been hugely influential on generations of Hollywood screenwriters and spiritual seekers. Frustrated with the limitations of Campbell’s approach, I concluded that what was truly distinctive about Campbell’s ideas stemmed from the influence of Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, a student of Sigmund Freud who broke with his mentor over their differing ideas about the role of the unconscious. Freud emphasized the need for the ego to control a dangerous id, while Jung also saw in the unconscious a source of wisdom. Jung found in myths and fairy tales evidence of a “collective unconscious” rooted in deep archetypal structures.

Jung has been widely dismissed by contemporary critical theorists as irredeemably essentialist. But a new generation of “post-Jungian” scholars persuasively argues that Jung was a far more subtle, dialectical thinker than the caricature, and that his ideas remain relevant. The release last year of The Red Book, an illustrated manuscript of “active imaginations” that Jung kept private for almost 100 years, has led to a renewed interest in his ideas. In Jung’s concepts I have found new tools to help explain contemporary American culture. As I write in “Jung and Lost,” while film studies emerged in the 1950s and 1960s under the influence of Freud,

“today it is Jung’s shadow which looms over much of American culture. The most commercially successful Hollywood genres of this decade are fantasy and superhero movies, subjects which in previous generations were viewed as kids’ stuff, but today claim a larger portion of culture than ever before. These genres reject conventional models of realism and psychological depth. Instead, they embrace magical storytelling and characters of outsized dimensions and godlike powers. These qualities have led them to be largely dismissed by conventional cultural critics (beyond fan studies scholars who have tended to emphasize audience reception over the textual properties of the stories themselves). But these same qualities are well described by the Jungian language of archetypes and the collective unconscious. Their roots are in the storytelling traditions of myth and fairy tale – exactly the genres Jungian analysts have always most valued.”

Jung and Lost” is one of six invited columns I wrote from 2008-9 for Flow, an online media studies journal published by the University of Texas. In “Myth, the Numinous, and Cultural Studies,” I make the case for a renewed engagement in cultural studies with the concept of myth. In “Strat-O-Matic and the Baseball Tarot: Sense and Synchronicity in Sports and Games,” I suggest that Jung’s concept of synchronicity – “meaningful coincidence” – can help explain the power of randomness in play. And in “Vertigo,” I move beyond Jung to other models of the numinous, arguing that the parallels between poststructuralist theory and Buddhist philosophy can help critical theorists think past “the linguistic turn” to escape “the prison-house of language.”

Another of my pieces for Flow, “Tweeting the Dialectic of Technological Determinism,” addresses the role of Twitter in the Iranian protests. And in “The Play Paradigm,” I suggest “What Media Studies Can Learn from Game Studies.” I have also “curated” two pieces for In Media Res, the digital humanities site now published by Georgia State, and guest-edited a week for the site on pop music. I look forward to expanding my role in the project.

I am now in the process of turning my work of the last few years into a book, A Centaur Manifesto: Mythos & Logos on the Commons. The goal of the book is to bring together post-Marxist ideological criticism with post-Jungian depth psychology. I have published all of my recent work in open-access journals, and I hope to have the manuscript for Centaur Manifesto reviewed through the “open peer review” process, which could bring together readers from cultural studies, religious studies, depth psychology, and the fantasy community. I will regularly be blogging about the book at tedfriedman.com, and tweeting as @tedfriedman.

Quora: Questions, Answers, and More Questions

Quora is a new social media service that’s organized around questions and answers. So far, it’s pretty intriguing. The proto-web of the 1980s – Gopher, FTP sites, BBSs – was built around collectively-authored FAQs. I’m sure Google, Bing and Facebook all find that a most web searches are awkward attempts to convey in Boolean terms what you’d convey to a human in the form of a question. Ask Jeeves has always failed at natural-language processing, just like the giant mainframe EMERAC in the 1950s Hepburn/Tracy comedy Desk Set.

IBM is still hard at work at Watson, a computer smart enough to win on Jeopardy. Questionable PR move – everybody roots against Deep Blue. HAL was more sympathetic, and IBM disowned him. See  Electric Dreams for more on the history of computer advertising.

But Quora takes a different track, drawing on the crowdsourcing model of Wikipedia to develop one global database of FAQs. Further, it doesn’t attempt to iron out differences of opinion as Wikiprose demands, but rather embraces a diversity of voices and relies on the crowd itself to serve as collective gatekeeper by  rating each answer.

Who knows where this will go. But we may be seeing the formation of the next Google. Or Facebook. Or Pets.com – who knows. Ideally, it’ll become the next Wikipedia – one which embraces crowdsourcing, but also rewards both expertise and diversity, while engaging the crowd as both producer and gatekeeper.

So, I figure I might as well try to get in on the ground floor, or at least as close to the ground as you can get without ever having lived in California, pitched a venture capitalist or attended SXSW.

Here’s my answer to an ongoing discussion on Quora: Can information be empowering, and why?

The distinction between information and knowledge is like that between database and algorithm. (Also content v form, superstructure v base, syntagm v paradigm, & practice v theory, and logos v mythos.) Information without a contextualizing theoretical (and inevitably ideological) framework is just “data smog” or bloatware. We all have access to more information – in terms of pure bits – than any citizens of any society ever before us. Does that make us more powerful? Not necessarily, as long as we still remain trapped within ideological blinders, stale frames & obsolete paradigms. Information becomes powerful – revolutionary, in fact – when it inspires and fuels paradigm shifts: from feudalism to capitalism, from monarchy to democracy, and hopefully from postmodernity/late-capitalism/corporate-globalization/scientific-rationality/phallogocentrism to transmodernity/postcapitalism/the-commons/dialectics&alchemy&mythos&logos

I also started a new question: How do you teach game studies in a 30-student classroom?

I’m developing a new media studies class for undergraduate media studies majors. In small 8-15 student seminars I teach game design by playing and then discussing board, card and party games like TransAmerica, Apples to Apples and Werewolf. In large lecture classes so far I’ve assigned students to download and play the World of Warcraft demo, I’ve set up presentations where students demo games for the class, and I’ve given students the option of writing about games on their final essays. But I miss the opportunities for playtesting and examining strategy tweaks and rules variations that I had in the old seminars.

On Quora you can choose to “follow” other users, just like Twitter. If you let it, Quora will scan your Facebook friends to find people to follow. Here’s what I wrote to my Quora followers:

Hi Quora Followers –

I’m sending this post to let you know I’ve now both answered an existing question and asked a new one.

I answered the question: “Can information be empowering, and why?” If you find the answer helpful, please consider voting it a thumbs-up, or whatever they call the little up-pointing triangle to the left of each answer.

I also asked my first question: “How do you teach game studies in a 30-student classroom?” If you have any thoughts on the subject, please consider answering. And if you check out the posted answers, please vote for your favorites.

I’m brand-new at this, but already intrigued. Thanks for the follows!

 

Ted’s Movie Database

Film poster for Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter'...

The complete Ted’s Movie Database, featuring the Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead rating system, is now back online. It’s part of the new Lists section, which includes year-end Top 10s and decade-end Top 50s, syllabi, comprehensive exam reading lists, old Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics’ poll ballots, and now TMDB. Follow the links from the navigation bar, or click here to go directly to TMDB.

Media and Popular Culture, Spring 2011

Media and Popular Culture
Film 4810, Spring 2011
Mondays & Wednesdays 1:30-2:45, Aderhold 303
Office: 738 One Park Place South
Email: ted3k@me.com    Twitter: http://twitter.com/tedfriedman
Website: https://tedfriedman.com/teaching

Popular culture is often described as “escapist” entertainment. But this dismissal evades some very serious questions. What are we escaping? Where are we escaping to? Does everybody go to the same place? How might the trip affect us, once we get back? This class looks at the social consequences and political implications of mass mediated entertainment. Its goal is to develop the theoretical tools and critical perspective to interrogate the TV shows, commercials, films, books, songs, videos, and web sites that saturate our lives.

Readings
The coursepack is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South). Some readings are available online through the links provided. Links to additional optional readings will be distributed via the Twitter hashtag #popcult.

Schedule

Unit I: Introducing Cultural Studies

1/19    Introduction: What Is Culture?

1/24    Barbie Nation: Culture as Struggle and Negotiation
Ted Friedman, “Introduction,” Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture:
https://tedfriedman.com/electric-dreams/electric-dreams-introduction/
Watch The Century of Self online:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6718420906413643126#

1/26    Culture as Sentimental Education
Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”:
http://webhome.idirect.com/~boweevil/BaliCockGeertz.html
In Media Res theme week, Sports & Media: Football/Futbol:
http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/theme-week/2010/45/sports-media-footballfutbol-november-8-12-2010

1/31    Paris Is Burning: Subcultures and Mass Culture
Dick Hebdige, “The Function of Subculture”: http://www.kirkarts.com/wiki/images/a/af/Hebdige_subculture.pdf
Malcolm Gladwell, “The Coolhunt”: http://gladwell.com/1997/1997_03_17_a_cool.htm
Gladwell, “The Science of Shopping”: http://gladwell.com/1996/1996_11_04_a_shopping.htm

Unit II: The Circuit of Culture

2/2    Regulation and Production
Thomas Schatz, “New Hollywood, New Millennium,” from Film Theory and Contemporary New Media, ed. Warren Buckland (Routledge, 2009). (CP)
Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail”: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html

2/7    Representation
Ellen Seiter, “Semiotics, Structuralism and Television,” from Channels of Discourse, Reassembled, ed. Robert Allen (UNC Press, 1992). (CP)
Roland Barthes, “Myth Today”: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~marton/myth.html

2/9    Audience, Identity and Meaning
Barbara Ehrenreich et al, “Beatlemania: Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” from The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, ed. Lisa Lewis (Routledge, 1992). (CP)
Ted Friedman, “Myth, the Numious and Cultural Studies,” Flow 10.05, August 6, 2009:
http://flowtv.org/2009/08/myth-the-numinous-and-cultural-studies-ted-friedman-georgia-state-university-atlanta/
In Media Res theme week, “Science Fiction and Fandom,” September 6-10, 2010:
http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/theme-week/2010/36/science-fiction-and-fandom-september-6-10-2010

Unit III: Culture and Power

2/14    Reading the Romance: Cultural Capital
Janice Radway, excerpts from Reading the Romance (UNC Press, 1984). (CP)
John Fiske, “The Cultural Economy of Fandom,” from The Adoring Audience. (CP)
Go to a bookstore. Browse for, buy, and read a romance novel.

2/16    Ideology, Hegemony and Resistance
James Kavanaugh, “Ideology,” from Critical Terms for Literary Study, ed. Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin (U Chicago Press, 1995).
John Fiske, “British Cultural Studies and Television,” from Channels of Discourse, Reassembled.
Stuart Hall, “Encoding, Decoding,” from CCCS Stencilled Paper 7:

Click to access SH-Coding.pdf

2/21    Ultimate Fighting Champsionship
In Media Res theme week, “Professional Wrestling,” August 16-20, 2010:
http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/theme-week/2010/32/wrestling-august-16-20-2010

2/23    Color Adjustment: Racial Formation
Omi and Winant, excerpt from Racial Formation in the United States (Routledge 1994). (CP)

2/28    Spring Break – No Class

3/2    Spring Break – No Class

3/7    Gender
Ariel Levy, “Raunch Culture” and “The Future that Never Happened,” from Female Chauvinist Pigs (Free Press, 2006). (CP)
Alexander Doty, “There’s Something Queer Here,” from Making Things Perfectly Queer (U Minnesota Press, 1993).

3/9    Mad Men
Midterms due

Unit IV: New Media Futures

3/14    Understanding Comics
Scott McCloud, excerpt from Understanding Comics (Kitchen Sink Press, 1993).
Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield, Freakangels: http://www.freakangels.com/?p=23
(read through at least Volume 1)

3/16    Adult Swim

3/21    Game Studies
Ralph Koster, excerpts from A Theory of Fun for Game Design (Paraglyph Press, 2004).
McKenzie Wark, GAM3R 7H3ORY: http://www.futureofthebook.org/gamertheory/ (read “Agony: on The Cave,” page cards 1-25)
Ted Friedman, “The Play Paradigm: What Media Studies Can Learn from Game Studies,” Flow 9.03 (December 1, 2008): http://flowtv.org/2008/12/the-play-paradigm-what-media-studies-can-learn-from-game-studies-ted-friedman-georgia-state-university/
Ted Friedman, “Strat-O-Matic and the Baseball Tarot: Sense and Synchronicity in Sports and Games,” Flow 9.07 (February 20, 2009): http://flowtv.org/2009/02/strat-o-matic-and-the-baseball-tarot-sense-and-synchronicity-in-sports-and-games-ted-friedman-georgia-state-university-atlanta/
In Media Res theme week, “Gaming,” December 6-10, 2010: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/theme-week/2010/49/gaming-december-6-10-2010
Play World of Warcraft, Farmville, or any other MMORPG or social game of your choice.
Free 10-day trial for WoW at http://www.worldofwarcraft.com.

3/23    Game Demos

3/28    Social Media
Emily Nussbam, “Say Everything,” New York, January 15, 2009:
http://nymag.com/news/features/27341/
Ted Friedman, “Tweeting the Dialectic of Technological Determinism,” Flow 10.02, June 27, 2009:
http://flowtv.org/2009/06/tweeting-the-dialectic-of-technological-determinism

3/30     New Media Demos

Unit V: The Politics of Culture

4/4    Globalization
Benedict Anderson, from Imagined Communities (CP)
Arjun Appadurai, from Modernity at Large (CP)

4/6    Global Formats

4/11    Activism
Watch Naomi Klein, “Addicted to Risk,” online:

Watch The Story of Stuff online: http://storyofstuff.com/

4/13    Late Night TV

4/18    Posthumanism
Donna Haraway, “Manifesto for Cyborgs” from Simians, Cyborgs and Women (Routledge 1990).CP

4/20    New Media Demos

4/25    Ecocultural Studies
David Abram, “The Ecology of Magic,” from The Spell of the Sensuous (Vintage, 1996):
http://www.primitivism.com/ecology-magic.htm
Scott London, “The Ecology of Magic: An Interview with David Abram”:
http://www.scottlondon.com/interviews/abram.html
Ted Friedman, “The Politics of Magic,” Scope 14 (June 2009):
http://www.scope.nottingham.ac.uk/article.php?issue=14&id=1138
Ted Friedman, “Vertigo,” Flow 10.08 (September 19, 2009):
http://flowtv.org/2009/09/vertigoted-friedman-georgia-state-university/
Take a walk in a park.

Take-Home Final Exam due 5/2

Assignments

The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:

A     100-93        B+    89-88        C+    79-78        D    70-65
A-    92-90        B    87-83        C    77-73        F    64-0
B-    82-80        C-    72-70

Take-Home Midterm – 45 points
The take-home midterm will require you to relate concepts from the readings and lectures to the films screened for the first three class units. Due in class March 17.

Take-Home Final – 45 points
The take-home final will be structured just like the midterm, covering units 4-7. Due May 5.

Presentation – 10 points
You will sign up with two partners to research the creators, economics, and audience contexts of a television program or video game. You will then choose a sample episode or gameplay experience, present your research to the class, screen the episode/game for the class, then participate in the class discussion. More information will follow in a separate handout.

Attendance Adjustment
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.

Policies

Re-Writes and Makeup Tests
Opportunities for revision and improvement will be available for the midterm and presentations. In addition, I will look at optional drafts of the final submitted on or before the deadline listed above.

Late and Unsubmitted Papers
Late papers will be marked off by ½ point for every day overdue unless an extension is agreed upon before the due date. No work can be accepted after the deadline for the take-home final. Any unsubmitted papers will receive a 0. Likewise, any unanswered exam questions will receive a 0. So, if you answer only 2 out of 3 required exam questions, you will get a 0 on the third question.

Withdrawals
Students withdrawing on or before the midsemester point will receive a W provided they are passing the course. Students who withdraw after the midsemester point will not be eligible for a W except in cases of hardship. If you withdraw after the midsemester point, you will be assigned a WF, except in those cases in which (1) hardship status is determined by the office of the dean of students because of emergency, employment, or health reasons, and (2) you are passing the course.

Incompletes
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.

Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.

Ted’s Top Podcasts of 2010

1. Bill Simmons, The BS Report
2. Marc Maron, What the Fuck
3. Jeffrey Kripal, Impossible Talk
4. Masterworks Broadway Podcast Theatre
5. Terri Gross, Fresh Air
6. John Hodgman, Judge John Hodgman
7. Robert X. Cringely, I, Cringely
8. Dan Savage, Savage Love Podcast
9. Doug Benson, Doug Loves Movies
10. Doug Henwood, Behind the News
11. Alex Tsakiris, Skeptiko
12. Jon Suintres, Word Balloon
13. Tami Simon, Sounds True: Insights from the Edge
14. The Guardian, World Cup Daily & Football Weekly
15. Adam Carolla, The Adam Carolla Show

Ineligible but recommended:

Tedcast, my own podcast.

Expanding Mind with Erik Davis, who interviewed me in November.


Ted’s Top 50 TV Shows of the 2000s

Originally posted December 29, 2009

This was the decade in which TV became America’s most exciting creative medium. When the most compelling auteurs were not filmmakers, but showrunners like Joss Wheedon, David Simon, David Chase and Matthew Weiner. When fandom became a matter not just of accepting the limitations of a mass-produced format, but celebrating the novelistic possibilities of serialized storytelling. When hundreds of channels meant, at least some of the time, true diversity. Even as the music industry tanked and the movies got bigger and dumber, TV – at least the best TV – got smarter. How long it’ll last is up for grabs. But this decade has at least demonstrated that there’s an audience out there for great weekly storytelling.

Below is a list of my favorite TV shows of the decade. For shows that started in the 1990s (like Buffy), I only considered the episodes that ran in the 2000s.

1 – The Wire
2 – The Office (US version)
3 – Lost
4 – Chappelle’s Show
5 – Lucky Louie
6 – Breaking Bad
7 – The Colbert Report
8 – Battlestar Galactica
9 – Mad Men
10 – Top Chef
11 – Flight of the Conchords
12 – 30 Rock
13 – Big Love
14 – Deadwood
15 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
16 – The Gilmore Girls
17 – Insomniac
18 – Generation Kill
19 – Project Greenlight
20 – Sex and the City
21 – Futurama
22 – Curb Your Enthusiasm
23 – The Sopranos
24 – The Daily Show
25 – Undeclared
26 – Dollhouse
27 – True Blood
28 – Hey Monie
29 – The Powerpuff Girls
30 – Parks and Recreation
31 – The Amazing Race
32 – The PJs
33 – Project Runway
34 – Pardon the Interruption
35 – Weeds
36 – CMT Crossroads
37 – No Reservations
38 – Best Week Ever
39 – MXC
40 – Cover Wars
41 – Human Giant
42 – Michael and Michael Have Issues
43 – King of the Hill
44 – Celebrity Poker Showdown
45 – Ultimate Film Fanatic
46 – Beat the Geeks
47 – World Poker Tour
48 – South Park
49 – Yo Gabba Gabba
50 – The Guild

Ted’s Top 50 Comics of the 2000s

Originally posted December 30, 2009

This was a mixed decade for comics. On the one hand, superhero comics rebounded from the “grim and gritty” cliches of the 1990s to newfound creative relevance, thanks largely to the savvy of Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, who recruited writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Robert Kirkman and Warren Ellis from the indie world and let them run wild on the Marvel universe. Bendis proved to have the best ear for dialogue in the history of the word balloon, and Quesada oversaw a series of crossover events that actually managed to deepen rather than exploit the mythos.

At the same time, the indie bubble of the 1990s popped, as the entire American comics infrastructure shrank in response to overspeculation, insularity, and new competition from manga and the internet. A new generation of personal artists never emerged to follow pioneers like Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, the Hernandez Brothers, Chester Brown, Seth, and Joe Matt. Or if they did, they never made it to my comics shop – which these days is a website, since the three stores closest to me all closed down by the middle of the decade.

By the end of the decade, it appears the industry is finally responding to these transformations. Several of my favorite comics, including Freakangels, Bayou, and PVP, are available for free online (although I still prefer to read them in ink). The early attempt to turn Watchmen into a “motion comic” in advance of the movie was a disaster, but the adaptation of Spiderwoman is much more promising. And the widespread recognition for works like Fun House, Epileptic, and Persepolis suggests the space for sequential art outside the comics ghetto may be growing.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the margins. As science fiction began to gain critical respectability in the 1960s and 70s, some SF authors railed, “keep science fiction in the gutter where it belongs!” Similarly, there’s a legitimate danger that the recent superhero boom – capped by Disney’s purchase of Marvel – will dull the critical edge that Quesada, Bendis, and their cohort worked so hard to sharpen. But with great responsibility comes great power. Hopefully, the new creative opportunities opening up for comics artists will give them the room to explore even fresher visions. The recent explosion of work by the astonishing Warren Ellis for indie publisher Avatar demonstrates what can happen when a writer bursting with ideas wins full creative freedom, and finds the collaborators who can bring his visions to life.

Here’s my list of the top 50 comics of the decade. I’ve lumped together spinoffs like New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, and Dark Avengers, as long as they’re from the same writer. I’ve listed the primary artsists who worked with each writer, using front cover credits to decide whether to include inkers and colorists, and skipping fill-in artists. Foreign comics were considered if they were translated into English in this decade.

1 – Epileptic, David B.
2 – The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn
3 – Y the Last Man, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
4 – Planetary, Warren Ellis and John Cassady
5 – Buddha, Osamu Tezuka
6 – Stray Bullets, David Lapham
7 – Alias/The Pulse, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos
8 – Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
9 – Box Office Poison, Alex Robinson
10 – Wolverine: Old Man Logan, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
11 – Freakangels, Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield
12 – Black Hole, Charles Burns
13 – Desolation Jones, Warren Ellis and JH Williams
14 – Promethea, Alan Moore and JH Williams
15 – Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
16 – The Book of Genesis Illustrated, R. Crumb
17 – Daredevil, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
18 – Dykes to Watch Out For, Alison Bechdel
19 – DC: The New Frontier, Darwyn Cooke
20 – Breakfast After Noon, Andi Watson
21 – Top 10, Alan Moore, Gene Ha, and Zander Cannon
22 – Powers, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
23 – New/Mighty/Dark Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis and various artists
24 – Fables, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha
25 – Fell, Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith
26 – Bayou, Jeremy Love and Patrick Morgan
27 – Hate/Hate Annual, Peter Bagge
28 – Pride of Baghdad, Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon
29 – Kick-Ass, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
30 – 50 Days of Night, Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith
31 – DMZ, Brian Wood and Ricardo Burchielli
32 – Northlanders, Brian Wood and various artists
33 – Parker: The Hunter, Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark
34 – La Perdida, Jessica Abel
35 – Eightball, Daniel Clowes
36 – Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma
37 – Doktor Sleepless, Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez
38 – Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud
39 – Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Guy Delisle
40 – Conan, Kurt Busiek, Cary Nord and Robert E. Howard
41 – Marvel Zombies, Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips
42 – Astonishing X-Men, Joss Wheedon and John Cassady
43 – PvP, Scott Kurz
44 – Local, Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
45 – Mouse Guard, David Petersen
46 – Courtney Crumrin, Ted Naifeh
47 – 100 Bullets, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
48 – Bonndocks, Aaron McGruder
49 – Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, Brian Michael Bendis and various artists
50 – Dork Tower, John Kovalic


Ted’s Top 50 Books of the 2000s

Originally posted January 06, 2010

OK, here’s one more end-of-decade list, a few days belated. I wasn’t planning on covering books, because I wasn’t sure how to combine fiction, journalism, memoir, history, biography, sports, gardening, cooking, and everything else into one big category, and I hadn’t read 50 books in any subcategory. Plus, I’d already lumped graphic novels in with the comics list. But I did want a place to lay out the really satisfying reads (and audiobook listens) I had over the decade. I decided to skip the academic works; that stuff already has a home on this website, in my syllabi and footnotes. Everything else, fiction and nonfiction, is on the list below. As with the other lists, series are lumped together, but only the volumes published in this decade; for example, the Harry Potter ranking only covers books 4-7.

All of my lists are inherently scattershot, but this one is probably the most unreliable. I managed to catch up with most of the most buzzed-about American comics, TV shows, records, and movies. But it takes a long time to read a book, and I have finicky tastes. I tried and bailed on lots of critics’ darlings, and ignored many more. And there are probably hundreds of books I would have enjoyed, if I’d ever heard of them.

As you’ll see, I read a lot of fantasy this decade, after reading mostly SF in the 1990s. Many of my favorite “literary” novels engaged fantasy culture as well, including The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I think this has something to do with the zeitgeist, as I argue here, but obviously it has a lot to do with the vagaries of my tastes, as well.

1 – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
2 – The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
3 – Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart
4 – Game of Thrones series, George RR Martin
5 – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
6 – The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenberger
7 – 3 Bags Full, Leonie Swann
8 – Love Is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield
9 – Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, David Foster Wallace
10 – The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
11 – Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
12 – His Dark Materials series, Philip Pullman
13 – Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susannah Clarke
14 – Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins
15 – Born Standing Up, Steve Martin
16 – The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons
17 – The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
18 – Samaritan, Richard Price
19 – The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
20 – Have a Nice Day, Mick Foley
21 – Foreign Babes in Beijing, Rachel DeWoskin
22 – Harry Potter series, JK Rowling
23 – The Post-Birthday World, Lionel Shriver
24 – Moneyball, Michael Lewis
25 – The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, Neal Pollack
26 – Old Man’s War series, John Scalzi
27 – The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell
28 – The Wife, Meg Wolitzer
29 – Karl Marx: A Life, Francis Wheen
30 – The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, Julian Rubinstein
31 – Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, Michael Pollan
32 – Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
33 – Gang Leader for a Day, Sudhir Vinkatesh
34 – Heat, Bill Buford
35 – The Geese of Beaver Bog, Bernd Heinrich
36 – Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
37 – The Magicians, Lev Grossman
38 – How I Became a Famous Novelist, Steve Hely
39 – The Areas of My Expertise, John Hodgman
40 – Little Children, Tom Perotta
41 – The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
42 – The Columnist, Jeffrey Frank
43 – A&R, Bill Flanagan
44 – The End of Mr. Y, Scarlett Thomas
45 – Bangkok 8, John Burdett
46 – How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, Toby Young
47 – From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, Amy Stewart
48 – Six Seconds or Less, Jack McCallum
49 – In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
50 – Stardust, Neil Gaiman

Ted’s Top Comics for 2010

  1. Scarlet, Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev
  2. Northlanders, Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli
  3. Mysterious, Jeff Parker & Tom Fowler
  4. Captain Swing, Warren Ellis & Raulo Caceres
  5. Underground, Jeff Parker & Steve Leiber
  6. Thunderbolts, Jeff Parker & Kev Walker
  7. Ultimate Avengers, Mark Millar & Steve Dillon
  8. Hulk, Jeff Parker & Gabriel Hardman
  9. Powers, Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming
  10. DMZ, Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli
  11. Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard
  12. Demo, Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan
  13. Rasl, Jeff Smith
  14. New Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen
  15. Atlas, Jeff Parker & Gabriel Hardman
  16. Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis & John Romita Jr.
  17. Batman: Streets of Gotham, Paul Dini & Dustin Nguyen
  18. Gotham City Sirens, Paul Dini & Guillem March
  19. Avengers Prime, Brian Michael Bendis & Alan Davis
  20. Ultimate Spiderman, Brian Michael Bendis & David LaFuente