English 4 - Fall, 2016

Critical Inquiries & Literature

    Topic: Seriality and Popular Culture Across Media

Class Information

Instructor: Hughes, William
CRN: 54024
Time: MW 10:00-11:50
Location: 308 Voorhies


    Serialized narratives are a relatively recent phenomenon, beginning in the early-nineteenth century with serialized novels and emerging in fits and starts up until the present day where they have become increasingly popular, particularly in television. This class will pursue a number of questions all related to the intersection of everyday life and popular culture by analyzing serial narratives across various media. We will be asking questions such as: what changes when a narrative is divided into parts or episodes and consumed in installments over time? How is our experience of the narrative different than when we read a novel in full-volume form or binge-watch a TV show over a weekend? Throughout the class, students will learn to think about seriality as a form that has contested, multiple meanings and that shifts depending on the materiality of the medium in which it inheres. How does the materiality of a particular medium make use of images, text, and sound, and how is its meaning impacted by the repetition of these images, text, and sounds? In addition to understanding media in the context of popular culture, the course will be interested in understanding how everyday life is represented in popular culture, and the ways in which seriality facilitates this representation. Does a phenomenon become a part of everyday life by being repeated with sufficient frequency? How might serial texts be particularly adept at representing ordinary, quotidian, and everyday experiences?
    In this class we will read The Old Curiosity Shop in installments over the course of the term to help bring about an understanding of the ways in which the experience of a narrative changes through its serialization. We will simultaneously engage with other texts including The Hazards of Helen and The Perils of Pauline, two examples of early twentieth century popular serial film; The New Mutants, a comic book spin-off of the X-Men; The Wire, a critically acclaimed HBO television series; Serial, a recent investigative journalism podcast; and I Love Your Work, an interactive digital film about the everyday lives of a group of women who make lesbian pornography.

    Tentative Reading/Viewing/Listening List:
    The Old Curiosity Shop, a serialized novel
    The Hazards of Helen and The Perils of Pauline, serial films
    The New Mutants, a comic book series
    The Wire, a TV series
    Serial, a podcast
    I Love Your Work, an interactive digital film (iloveyourwork.net)