TVR 30.5: Media Criticism (Television and Radio Criticism)

Semester Syllabus - Summer, 2004

Monday through Thursday: 1:45PM - 3 :30PM; Library 384 (L384)

Class Schedule and Assignments / Lecture Notes

Course Description

We live in our media. We spend more time engaged in communication than we spend in any other activity, including sleeping, and there are media choices associated with every minute of that communication. In this course, you will learn how to analyze the media and the messages they enable. To do this we need to step back from the way we usually think about media and consider alternate perspectives; we need to learn how to use those perspectives to view, hear, read about, think about, discuss, and write about the media we use and the content we consume from those media.

In this course you will learn and apply critical and theoretical approaches to understanding contemporary media, particularly mass media such as television, radio, and Internet streaming media. You will pick a favorite body of content (a television show, a commercial series, a radio show, etc), think deeply about the ways in which that body of content has been constructed to shape our perceptions, and write about what you find in a way that others may find interesting and useful. This is both a capstone class to your Television, Radio, and Film major and a Writing Intensive course that will ensure you have the writing skills to succeed in the commercial and academic marketplace. You will apply what you learned in your production courses at Brooklyn College in a different way. It is hoped that you will become better and more thoughtful creators of media content as a result.

To do so, we will survey several major methods associated with media theory and criticism. Media theory considers the ways in which, "in the words of Marshall McLuhan, "the medium is the message"; the ways in which the possibilities, uses, effects, practices associated with media imbue a mediums message with meaning. Various methods of media criticism apply a differing theoretical premises to messages. The critical methods examined in this course include semiotics, narrative theory, genre theory, ideological theories, media ecology, cultural studies, and postmodernism.

This course is designed to help you to think about the media you use to make and consume messages. It will present a variety of of different perspectives on the media within a framework that should complement your production experiences and goals. You will be asking questions, exploring possibilities, and writing intensively (this is a writing intensive course) about difficult and sophisticated ideas, and cultivating skills that are crucial to your development not only as future media makers and storytellers, but also as participants in our evolving media culture.


Allen, R.C. Channels of discourse, reassembled: Television and contemporary criticism. The University of North Carolina Press. 1994.

Levinson, P. Digital McLuhan: a guide to the information millennium. Routledge. 2001.

E-mail Discussion Group

This class has an e-mail discussion group. You must participate in it.


Exam20%Classic Question and Answer testing, conducted a little after the mid-point in the semester. Covers all of the material covered up to that point in the course, including classroom discussion and textbooks.
Index Card Reports and other assignments15%Index card assignments entail doing a small assignment involving thought or observation, but with the restriction that the output of the assignment (your answer or observation) must fit on one side of a 3x5 card. There will be approximately 15 such assignments, each worth about 1 point on your grade). These will not be graded. Simply turning them in on time nets the points, but deductions will be taken if it is obvious that a particular assignment wasn't taken seriously. Index Card Assignments will frequently be used in the course of class discussions.
Short Criticism Paper 115%A short research paper applying one methodology to your selected content.
Short Criticism Paper 215%A short research paper applying one methodology to your selected content.
Term Paper25%A research paper applying the methodologies of your choice to your selected content.
Participation10%You get this just for showing up prepared at a rate of about .36 (10/28) per class. I will deduct if it is obvious that you were not prepared (e.g. had not done the reading or completed the assignment) on a given day.
Total Grade (based on above)100% 
Attendance SubtractionopenEvery absence beyond four will result in a net subtraction from your final grade.
Effort BonusUp to 10%An optional addition, based on good and enthusiastic participation, interest in subject matter, etc. There is no guarantee I will give any of these points to anyone.


There are several layers of content associated with this course, including:

All of these elements contribute to the overall learning experience of this class, and you will necessary miss out on these layers if you miss class. Attendance counts as a part of the course grade in at least two ways. It will not be possible to receive an A in this class with more than 3 absences. Any absence's beyond four will result in a net subtraction from your final grade. For most students, however, these absences will have secondary effects on test scores and other assignments. You simply cannot do your best in this course by missing class discussions and lectures.

University policy does NOT allow you to miss any classes unless you have a specific and important reason for doing so. It specifically respects religious holidays, and generally schedules classes so that classes are not held on the most commonly observed religious holidays. Not all religious holidays are covered, however. Students should regard the three absences allowed in this syllabus to cover any religious holidays they need to take. University policy also respects health and family emergencies. Such emergencies cannot, in general, be planned for in advance, and students are reminded that the three absences allowed in this syllabus also covers such emergencies. You shouldn't ever think that you are allowed three absences and can simply not show up on any particular day. Unplanned emergencies happen and you should do everything you can to avoid planning conflicts with this class. Medical appointments, in particular, can almost always be scheduled so as to not conflict with class obligations. I will be understanding of problems so long as I know about them in advance and they don't compromise your ability to learn the material associated with this class.

Bottom line: Be here.

Plagiarism and Cheating:

I have, over the years, caught a number of students attempting to pass off other people's work as their own. Such behavior is unacceptable in any classroom, and I won't accept it in mine. My usual practice will be to zero any assignment on which a student has been found to be cheating and consult with the department chair on what other actions may be appropriate

Examples of cheating include:

Bottom line: Write in your own words and reference the ideas you use to the sources you read them in.

Disabling Conditions

Students who have a disabling condition which might interfere with their ability to successfully complete this course are encouraged to speak to me confidentially. I will be happy to cooperate in identifying alternate means of demonstrating such mastery where there is a demonstrable need.

Bottom line: I'm here to help.

Late Assignments:

It is your responsibility to ensure that all assignments are submitted by the due date. I will reduce the grade on an assignment by one half letter grade for every class period by which it is late.

Questions, Problems and Incompletes:

If you have a question I encourage you to ask it in class. There are no stupid questions; only clarifying answers. If you don't know the answer to a question it is likely someone else is curious as well. Please ask. The worst that can happen is that I defer my answer to a meeting after class or during office hours.

If you have a problem in the class I encourage you to contact me as quickly as possible. Several means of contact are listed at the top of my Brooklyn College home page, including telephone, e-mail, and instant messenger. I also maintain regular office hours. Note, in particular, that I will not grant an incomplete for the course unless you talk to me about it in advance or I am aware of conditions which would make it impossible for you to do so.