Poetics, Metaphysics, and Grundrisse

September 11, 2013 by

In our Aristotle selections, (Metaphysics Book 5 and Poetics) we see the ground work that provides a basis for media studies, literary criticism, and film theory. Aristotle has specific rules that must be applied effectively to create the ideal poetry or tragedy. Aristotle holds both of these forms in high regard over other “lower” forms of entertainment such as comedy. In Metaphysics, Aristotle is taking the elements of production and explaining them down to their barest postulates. All the while, he uses these axioms as building blocks for production. So, it would be appropriate to start at the “beginning” and discuss each component to the last. Media studies can also be viewed in this way. As media scholars we can look at a whole production or we may look at very distinct elements within a television show. Whichever approach or angle we choose, we must remember that there are certain elements within any medium that must exist in order to study said object.

Poetics describes the detailed elements of a specific genre, in this case poetry. This is a more detailed approach to a specific artifact. In Metaphysics, Aristotle looks at the elements that are required for existence, while Poetics looks at those characteristics that create an optimal poem. Another way to look at it is in terms of production values. In order for a Tragedy to be par excellence it must observe specific guidelines such as plot, characters, thought, and diction. If these elements are not implemented, the audience or critic will easily be able to dismiss the poem for falling short. Although Aristotle privileges Tragedy over other forms of poetry, his guidelines can apply to other genres and media.

Lastly, Marx’s Grundrisse discusses production in an economical sense, but can easily be interpreted into an analysis of fan or audience studies. The key point to take from the reading is that production and consumption are one and the same. When content is produced it is also consumed at the exact very same moment. Both consumption and production must coexist or not at all. They feed off of each other in order to continue the cycle. Producers create content while the consumers absorb it and utilize it to their own ends. This utilization also produces content that the media producers use to create new works or continue to produce similar material.


How to post to WordPress

September 4, 2013 by

Go to undcomm509.wordpress.com.

Click on “log in” under the “Meta” menu on the bottom right.


Enter 509student and the password on the paper/PDF version of the syllabus.

To create a new post, scroll over “Communication 509” (top left corner), then “New” (in the pull-down menu), then “Post.”


This will bring up a page with two fields, one for the title, one for the blog entry. (A “field” is a box to fill in.) I recommend clicking on the “text” button and editing in HTML, following these instructions.


When you are done, you can click on “save draft,” “preview,” or “publish.” If you want to see how your post looks, choose “preview.” If you are done, choose “publish.”


To log out, scroll over “509student” in the top right corner. Scroll down and click “sign out.”


Gray and Lotz, Television Studies

September 3, 2013 by

In Television Studies (Polity, 2012), Jonathan Gray and Amanda Lotz argue that television studies is best understood not as a field but as an approach (p. 23). They dismiss a number of alternative formulations, especially those that rely on ideas of television as a specific technology. Instead, they propose that scholars are engaged with with television studies whenever they study “at least two of the program, the audience, and the industry” (p. 25).

In each of their four chapters (programs, audiences, institutions, and finally contexts) they provide a historical sketch describing how television studies came to be characterized by the “at least two” approach. For instance, with respect to programs, they describe aesthetic analysis, rhetorical analysis, Althusserian screen theory, and semiotics. They also produce a genealogy of scholars (starting with Horace Newcomb and his notion of “cultural forum,” ending with John Fiske and polysemy), before settling on critical analysis, which “pries under the surface for deeper meanings and connects these meanings to broader social analysis and commentary” (p. 46).

They provide similar histories and genealogies for audience and institutional research. They privilege the Birmingham School (so-called because it developed at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies), and its later incarnations, especially fan studies à la John Fiske and Henry Jenkins. Especially revealing is their discussion of the “The Battles of Vilas Hall” in the 1990s, which pitted political economy (whose standard-bearer, Bob McChesney, worked on the fifth floor of Vilas Hall at the University of Wisconsin) against cultural studies (whose standard-bearer, John Fiske, worked one floor up).

Beyond its broad conceptual scope, this book’s value is its demonstration of a side of academia that is often hidden from students, namely the role of personal relationships, especially between advisers and advisees. People’s friendships affect how they go about their work, which ideas they support, which they contest. Although Gray and Lotz do not say so explicitly, it’s striking how influence works — not in a petty sense where someone’s distaste for someone else causes them to dismiss their ideas, but in the conversations that develop between scholars who are also friends. Ideas develop in conversation, and the genealogies are insightful because they show not only who was talking to whom, but how that influenced the scholarship people produced.

Basic HTML tutorial

September 2, 2013 by

HTML stands for “hyper-text markup language.”

The idea of a markup comes from typesetting, where editors had to indicate to printers where to print text in italics or in bold. They would take a page and mark it up, underlining words that should be italicized, for instance, like this:

a marked up text, shamelessly lifted from technical-expressions.com

The WordPress text editor — which I strongly encourage you to use, instead of the visual editor — works much the same way. First, you enter your text without any formatting.

Then, you can highlight words that should be italicized or bolded. Click on the “i” button for italics or the “b” button for bold. You’ll notice that the text is not italicized or bolded. Instead, the editor will add markups, so




when you press “i” for italics.

When you click on “publish,” that text will then be rendered


Similarly, when you press “b” for bold, the editor will add markups like this


which renders like this


The first markup consists of a less-than sign, then instructions for rendering, then a greater-than sign. The second markup (which indicates where to stop altering the text) includes a forward slash after the less-than sign.

I encourage you to play around with this. Try a block quote, or try embedding a link by highlighting a word and clicking on “link.” Follow the instructions and see how it marks up your text.

If you’d like more tutorials, I highly recommend W3Schools.

Places to look for books to review

August 28, 2013 by

Canadian Journal of Communication books for review (link)

Saturday Night Live and American TV — talk to me and I can get a copy

The International Journal of Communication has an open submission policy for book reviews (link) — register as an author and you’ll be able to submit your review

Cultural Studies books received

If there is a specific book you know of already, talk to me and I’ll see if I can get a copy. Most presses have a way to request a review copy through their website.