ENGL 6650/7650:

Special Topics in Popular Culture

Cult Television

Spring 2011 | Room: PH 308, Day/Time: Tuesday, 600-900 pm

About David Lavery | Class Members | Texts | Course Requirements | Agenda | Cult TV Blog | Take-Home Final Exam

Dr. David Lavery

Office: PH 372 | Office Hours: M 300-430 pm W 200-400 pm | Office Phone/Voice-Mail: 615 898-5648

 E-mail: david.lavery@gmail.com | Home Page: http://davidlavery.net

Dr. David Lavery is Professor of English at MTSU (1993- ). The author of over one hundred and twenty published essays, chapters, and reviews, he is author / co-author / editor / co-editor of twenty three books, including The Essential Cult Television Reader and a textbook, Television Art (Blackwell) and books on Lost (2), Twin Peaks, X-Files, The Sopranos (a trilogy), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teleparody, Seinfeld, Deadwood, My So-Called Life, Gilmore Girls, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural, TV Finales, and Crying. The organizer of international conferences on the Whedonverses, Lost, and The Sopranos, a founding co-editor of the journals Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies, Critical Studies in Television, and Series/Season/Show, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television (Australia, Turkey, the UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany) and has been a guest/source for the BBC, NPR, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The New York Times, A Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Publica (Portugal), AP, The Toronto Star, USA Today. From 2006-2008, he taught at Brunel University in London.


A Resource CD (provided)

Click on the covers to order the books from Amazon.

Class Members:

Title in brackets = claimed Essential Cult TV Encyclopedia entry. Go here to see a list of possible series/shows.

Shiloh Carroll [Fringe] | Jennifer Crosby [Stargate Atlantis] | Ariel Dingus [Dead Like Me] | Gary Gravely [Friday Night Lights] | Stephanie Graves [Pushing Daisies] | Mick Howard [3rd Rock from the Sun] | Leah Hurt [Spaced] | Lisa Jass [Seinfeld] | B. J. Keeton [Stargate Universe] | Luke Patton [True Blood] | Brandi Williamson [Weeds]

Course Requirements:

Critical Essay: A 2,000 word reading/analysis/interpretation of a particular episode or theme or character or narrative technique or cult characteristic or icon or subgenre . . . of a cult television series or show (or two or more considered together).—30% of course grade.

Major Paper: A fully researched entry for the online version of the Essential Cult TV Encyclopedia (written in the style of the entries in the print volume) of not less than 4,000 words. Must be on a series/show not yet covered in the ECTVR. [Assignments made on a first come, first serve basis.]50% of course grade.

Take-Home Essay Exam: From a menu of topics (available two weeks in advance), you will select two and write 1500 word essays. These topics will all be "leading questions," intended to inspire your own comprehensive synthesis of course ideas, questions, problems.20% of course grade. Go here to find the Take-Home Final.



Power Points

Intro to the Course | Stephanie Graves' Cult Film Power Point | Cult Media: Intro | Meeting 2 [Twilight Zone, The Prisoner, Star Trek]  | Quality Television | Meeting 3 [Twin Peaks] | Meeting 4 [British Cult Comedy]  | Meeting 5 [The X-Files] | Meeting 6 [Buffy the Vampire Slayer]: BtVS | Whedon | Whedon Studies | "We'd Do the Weird Stuff" | Meeting 7 [Firefly]: "Objects in Space" | Meeting 8  [American Cult Comedy] | Meeting 9 [Life on Mars]  | Meeting 10 [Battlestar Galactica]  | Meeting 11 [Supernatural] | Meeting 12 [Doctor Who] | Meeting 13-14 [Lost, Fringe]: Lost as Cultural Phenomenon | Genesis of Lost | Lost Characters | What was LOST | Lost Episodes | Lost Seasons  | Fringe



1/18/11 | Meeting 1

Introduction to the Course

Cult TV Series of the Week: Twilight Zone

Viewing: "Eye of the Beholder" (2.6) and "Little Girl Lost" (3.26)

Required Readings: ECTVR 1-6; "Never Give Up, Never Surrender!": The Resilience of Cult Television—Abbott (TCTVB 1); Observations on Cult Television—Pearson (TCTVB 7); Lampley, ECTVR 291; Beeler, TCTVB 55

1/25/11 | Meeting 2

Cult TV Series of the Week: Star Trek and The Prisoner

Viewing: "The City on the Edge of Forever" (Star Trek, 1.28);  "Fallout" and "Bernie Williams Interview" (The Prisoner)

Required Reading: Wilcox, ECTVR 244; Geraghty, TCTVB 131; Howard, ECTVR 189

Recommended Reading: TBA

Special Topics/Readings: Case Study: HBO and The SopranosJohnson (TCTVB 148); Cult Channels: Showtime, FX, and Cult TV—Brown (TCTVB 155)

2/1/11 | Meeting 3

Cult TV Series of the Week: Twin Peaks

Viewing: Pilot, Episodes 2.8 and 2.22

Required Reading: Bianculli, ECTVR 299; Booy, TCTVB 28

Recommended Reading: Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks (RCD)

Special Topics/Readings: Boldly Going: Music and Cult TV—Halfyard (TCTVB 121)

2/8/11 | Meeting 4

Cult TV Series of the Week: British Cult Comedy [Absolutely Fabulous, Blackadder, Black Books, Father Ted, The League of Gentlemen, Little Britain, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Red Dwarf, Shameless, Spaced]

Viewing: TBA

Required Reading: Amy-Chinn, ECTVR 208; Hunt, ECTVR, 134; Karpovich, ECTVR 7; Landy, ECTVR 166

Recommended Reading: TBA

Special Topics/Readings: The Cult of Cult TV?—Fiddy (225)

2/15/11 | Meeting 5

Cult TV Series of the Week: The X-Files | PDFs of the X-Files Mythology Collection Timelines: Abduction | Black Oil | Colonization | Super Soldiers

Viewing: "Jose Chung's From Outer Space" (3.20) and "Musings of a Cigarette Smoking Man" (4.7)

Required Reading: Koven, ECTVR 337; Brown, TCTVB 163

Recommended Reading: Deny All Knowledge: Reading The X-Files (RCD)

Special Topics/Readings: Cult TV and the Television Industry—Johnson (TCTVB 135); Cult TV and New Media—Richards (TCTVB 179)

2/22/11 | Meeting 6

Cult TV Series of the Week: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Viewing: "Hush" (4.10) and "Once More with Feeling" (6.7)

Required Reading: Williamson, ECTVR 28, 60; TCTVB 100, 114

Recommended Reading: Fighting the Forces: What's at Stake in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; all issues of Slayage: The Online Journal of the Whedon Studies Association (RCD)

Special Topics/Readings: Transgressive TV—Jes Battis (TCTVB 77); Subcultural CelebrityHills (TCTVB 233)

3/1/11 | Meeting 7

Cult TV Series of the Week: Firefly | Character Intros: Inara (Graves); Book (Patton); Simon (Jass); Wash (Keeton)

Viewing: "Out of Gas" (1.5) and "Objects in Space" (1.10)

Required Reading: Telotte, ECTVR 111

Recommended Reading: Firefly/Serenity Special Issue of Slayage 7.1 [25], Winter 2008 (RCD)

Special Topics/Readings: Representation: Exploring Issues of Sex, Gender, and Race in Cult Television—Jowett (TCTVB 107)

Spring Break

3/15/11 | Meeting 8

Cult TV Series of the Week: American Cult Comedy [Big Bang Theory, The Comeback, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Freaks and Geeks, The Larry Sanders Show, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Seinfeld, South ParkThe Larry Sanders Show, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Seinfeld, South Park, The Simpsons, Wonderfalls]

Viewing: TBA

Required Reading: Beeler, ECTVR 322; Ford, ECTVR 77; Gray, ECTVR 120 & 221; Holtzclaw, ECTVR 181; Morreale, ECTVR 68

Recommended Reading: TBA

Special Topics/Readings: Television and the Cult Audience: A Primer—Robson (209)

Either Critical Essay or Major Paper Due by This Date

3/22/11 | Meeting 9

Cult TV Series of the Week: Life on Mars

Viewing: Episodes 1.1 (The Pilot) and 2.8 (Series Finale)

Required Reading: Nelson, ECTVR 142; Lavery, “The Emigration of Life on Mars: Sam and Gene Do America”; Angelina Karpovich and David Lavery, Life on Mars Symposium: A Report (RCD).

Recommended Reading: TBA

Special Topics/Readings: The Cult of Cult TV?—Fiddy (225)

3/29/11 | Meeting 10

Cult TV Series of the Week: Battlestar Galactica

Viewing: "Final Cut" (2.8) and "Daybreak: Part 2" (4.20)

Required Reading: Lavery and Maull 44

Recommended Reading: Finding Battlestar Galactica: An Unauthorized Guide (RCD)

Special Topics/Readings: Playing Hard to 'Get'—How to Write Cult TV—Espenson (TCTVB 45)

4/5/11 | Meeting 11

Cult TV Series of the Week: Supernatural

Viewing: "Mystery Spot" (3.11) or "Wishful Thinking" (4.8) and "Monster Movie" (4.5) or "The Monster at the End of This Book" (4.18)

Required Reading: Peirse, ECTVR 260

Recommended Reading: TV Goes to Hell: An Unofficial Supernatural Road Map (RCD)

Special Topics/Readings: Mainstream Cult—Hills (TCTVB 67); Members Only: Cult TV from Margins to Mainstream—Angelini & Booy (19)

4/12/11 | Meeting 12

Cult TV Series of the Week: Doctor Who

Viewing: Hills, ECTVR 97; Booy, TCTVB 189

Required Reading: "Love & Monsters" (2.10) and "Blink" (3.10) 

Recommended Reading: TBA

Special Topics/Readings: Writing Tie-ins—Holder (TCTVB 191)

4/19/11 | Meeting 13

Cult TV Series of the Week: Fringe

Required Reading: Onion TV Club Fringe Recaps (Noel Murray)

Viewing: "Peter" (2.16) and "Brown Betty" (2.20)

Recommended Reading: TBA

Special Topics/Readings: Gen, Slash, OT3s, and Crossover—The Varieties of Fan Fiction—Kaveney (TCTVB 243)

4/26/11 | Meeting 14

Cult TV Series of the Week: Lost

Viewing: "Flashes Before Your Eyes" (3.8) and "The End" (6.16)

Required Reading: Dolan, ECTVR 149

Recommended Reading: Unlocking the Meaning of Lost (2nd Edition); Lost's Buried Treasures (3rd Edition) (RCD)


5/3/11 | Meeting 15: Each class member will make a ten minute presentation on his/her Essential Cult TV Encyclopedia entry.

5/4/11: Either Critical Essay or Major Paper Due by This Date

5/6/11: Take-Home Essay Final Due by This Date