MS 152 // Television Authorship // Fall 2009
MW 2.45-4.00 // Edmunds 114

Kathleen Fitzpatrick // Department of Media Studies // Pomona College
Crookshank 4 // x71496 // kfitzpatrick at pomona dot edu
Office hours: MW 4.15-5.30

It’s clear that authorship on television is something different from authorship in literary studies; television is produced collaboratively in a way that no novel could ever be. And yet contemporary television series have given new life to the notion of the “auteur” through the figure of the showrunner; even more, television has lately become a writer’s medium, with a growing number of novelists working as regular members of series writing staffs. Moreover, there are complex interrelationships that arise between television and the book when a series is adapted from a print text. This course will explore the nature of authorship on television through an in-depth case study of one key figure in recent television drama, David Simon. Over the course of the semester, we’ll read the books on which Simon’s series (Homicide, The Corner, The Wire, and Generation Kill) were based, we’ll watch those series (at least in part), and we’ll read some recent critical writing about authorship and television. Your task will be to put it all together, via a lively blog conversation, group discussions and presentations, a short scene analysis, and a thoroughly researched and compellingly written term paper.


Attendance and participation (15%): See policies for more information. Bear in mind that participation doesn’t mean simply doing the work, or simply speaking up in class, but actively working to make the class a positive learning experience for you and your fellow students.

Blogging (25%): One of the key aspects of your work this semester is our course blog, on which you’ll write frequently, using your posts to respond to our course readings, to draw your classmates’ attention to articles and artifacts you’ve found, and so forth. You are required to post at least one entry each week, which should directly engage with the week’s reading and viewing, before the start of class on Monday; this entry should be as formal as a printed reading response would be, paying attention to the quotation, citation, and explication practices involved in close reading. Other entries are greatly desired; these can be as informal as you like. You can explore issues that have been raised in previous class discussion, but you must significantly expand on that discussion and not simply rehash what’s already been said. You can skip two of these reading response posts with impunity, or you can do all of them to bolster your grade. You are also required to read your classmates’ posts and leave at least two comments each week, before the start of class on Wednesday. (Note that you don’t have to post the the two comments at the same time; just make sure that week-to-week you get those entries and comments in.) This weekly requirement is meant as a minimum acceptable level of participation; I hope that you’ll all contribute more, creating an ongoing, engaging dialogue.

Group work (15%): During the second week of classes, I will divide the class into small groups. These working groups will serve multiple purposes during the semester, including providing fodder for in-class discussions. Among the projects your group will take on will be a group presentation; on one occasion this semester, your group will be called upon to lead our class discussion by giving a brief presentation and facilitating the ensuing conversation. This presentation and facilitation will be peer evaluated by the class as a whole, and your overall work in the group will be evaluated by the group’s other members. More information to follow.

Short paper (15%): Your first formal assignment will ask you to write a 4-5 page polished essay (i.e., not a first draft!) thoroughly analyzing a key scene from Homicide in the context of the series’ broader narrative dynamics; you may choose to explore this scene in comparison to the book, or in relationship to earlier police procedurals. More information will follow.

Term paper (30%): Your final project will be a term paper of 12 pages, which will involve substantial research, and will make a complex, well-defined argument in which you carefully use the theoretical material we have covered in exploring the cultural object or phenomenon of your choosing. There will be multiple stages in your work on this paper, aimed at helping you focus your research, draft the paper, and thoroughly revise it before turning it in. Basic deadlines are indicated on the schedule, but more details will follow.


All policies under which my classes operate (including policies about attendance, late work, accommodations for students with documented disabilities, and the like) are available at Please read those policies carefully, and let me know if you have any questions.


The following required books are available at Huntley:

David Simon, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets
David Simon & Edward Burns, The Corner
Richard Price, Clockers
Evan Wright, Generation Kill
Kristen Thompson, Storytelling in Film and Television

The following recommended books are also at Huntley:

Amanda Lotz, The Television Will Be Revolutionized
Jason Mittell, Television & American Culture
Gary Edgerton, The Essential HBO Reader

Other readings as linked below are available as linked below; the required videos will be made available via Sakai.


W Sept 2
Introduction; Homicide, ep. 1

M Sept 7
John Hartley, “From Republic of Letters to Television Republic
Charles McGrath, “The Triumph of the Prime-Time Novel
Homicide, ep. 2

W Sept 9
[no class; Prof. Fitzpatrick out of town]

M Sept 14
Peter Wollen, “The Auteur Theory
John Caldwell, “Industrial Auteur Theory” in Production Culture
David Simon, Homicide, to 300
Homicide, ep. 3-4

W Sept 16
Janet Staiger, “Authorship Approaches
David Simon, Homicide, to 450
Homicide, ep. 5

M Sept 21
Kristen Thompson, “Go With the Flow: Analyzing Television,” in Storytelling in Film and Television
David Simon, Homicide, to end
Homicide, ep. 6-7
**Short paper, stage one: preliminary proposal due**

W Sept 23
Kristen Thompson, “The Dispersal of Narrative,” in Storytelling in Film and Television
Linda Hutcheon, “What?“, in A Theory of Adaptation
Homicide, ep. 8-9

M Sept 28
Jason Mittell, “Telling Television Stories,” in Television and American Culture
Jason Mittell, “Policing Genres,” in Genre and Television
Homicide, ep. 10-11
**Short paper, stage two: draft due**

W Sept 30
Michael Z. Newman, “From Beats to Arcs: Toward a Poetics of Television Narrative
Homicide, ep. 12-13

M Oct 5
Christopher Anderson, “Producing an Aristocracy of Culture in American Television,” in The HBO Reader
The Sopranos, ep. 1
Six Feet Under, ep. 1
**Short paper, stage three: peer review of draft due**

W Oct 7
[no class; Prof. Fitzpatrick out of town]

M Oct 12
David Simon & Edward Burns, The Corner
The Corner, ep. 1-3
**Short paper: final draft due**

W Oct 14
Simon & Burns, The Corner
The Corner, ep. 4-6
**Term paper, stage one: preliminary proposal due**

M Oct 19
[no class; fall break]

W Oct 21
Richard Price, Clockers

M Oct 26
Richard Price, Clockers
— class facilitators: Caress, Alisa, Thembeka, Jasmine

W Oct 28
Amanda Lotz, “Making Television” and “Television Storytelling Possibilities,” in The Television Will Be Revolutionized
David Simon, Letter to HBO
The Wire, ep 1.1-1.3
**Term paper, stage two: annotated bibliography due**

M Nov 2
Derek Kompare, “Publishing Flow: DVD Box Sets and the Reconception of Television
The Wire, ep 1.4-1.6
— class facilitators: Molli, Josue, Ana, Michael

W Nov 4
Lawrence Lanahan, “Secrets of the City
The Wire, ep 1.7-1.9
— class facilitators: Luca, Jordan, Aaron, Marshall, Nina

M Nov 9
Marsha Kinder, “Re-Wiring Baltimore
Dana Polan, “Invisible City
The Wire, ep 1.10-1.13
— class facilitators: Justin, Noah, Andrew, Jimmy

W Nov 11
Jason Mittell, “All in the Game
David Schwartz, “Kings and Pawns
The Wire, ep 2.1-2.3
— class facilitators: Tigist, Rachael, Than, Julia

M Nov 16
James Williams, “The Lost Boys of Baltimore
Nelson George, “Across Racial Lines
The Wire, ep 2.4-2.6
**Term paper, stage three: draft due**
— class facilitators: Dashiell, Charles, Elise, Bryan

W Nov 18
Kent Jones, “Down in the Hole
The Wire, ep. 2.7-2.9
— class facilitators: RJ, Lindsay, Alyssa, Stephanie

M Nov 23
Nick Hornby, Interview with David Simon
Margaret Talbot, “Stealing Life
Mark Bowden, “The Angriest Man in Television
Christopher Hanson, “Some Last Words on The Wire
The Wire, ep. 2.10-2.12
**Term paper, stage four: peer review of draft due**
— class facilitators: Jenny, Winona, Drew, Emma

W Nov 25
[no class; Thanksgiving]

M Nov 30
Evan Wright, Generation Kill
Generation Kill, ep 1-2

W Dec 2
Wright, Generation Kill
Generation Kill, ep 3-4
**Term paper: final draft due**

M Dec 7
Nancy Franklin, “The Road to Baghdad
Richard Beck, “Beyond the Choir: An Interview with David Simon
Generation Kill, ep 5-7

W Dec 9
concluding thoughts