Assignment Description: In the opening weeks of this course, we’ve explored and further expanded the argument at the center of Laurie Ouellette and James Hay’s book Better Living through Television: namely, the idea that the contemporary genre of visual entertainment known as “reality TV” is best understood as a mode of governance that plays a crucial role in shaping the way that ordinary people understand everything from the “technology” of citizenship and the appropriate roles of governments and corporations in providing social welfare to the meaning of democracy, the value and purpose of surveillance in society, and the demographic makeup of society itself.
Broadly speaking, your task in this assignment is to write a thesis-based argument that explores this question through your own eyes and ideas, taking a show that interests you as the primary object of discussion in an original analysis. More specifically, I’d like the paper to explain how one reality show that we didn’t screen for this class can be understood as a mode of “governmentality” that contributes to the ways in which ordinary people understand the processes of government and/or citizenship and the kinds of issues we’ve discussed aroun dthem in class. But I want the core of your analysis to revolve around a detailed close formal analysis of at least one scene from the show you discuss that best illustrates your argument about it, engaging in detail with at least two assigned readings from the course (though you can refer to other parts of the show and other sources if you wan to). Make sure to define all the concepts you emply in making your case—especially the concept of “governmentality”—and referring to any text you need to in order to ground your account in evidence and proper sources. See below for further guidelines.
Assignment Goals: The main goals of this assignment are to deepen your understanding of the relation between Reality TV, as a genre of contemporary visual culture and media, and a key concept for this course—namely, the concept of “governmentality.” Apart from this, it is designed to give you practice with the skill of close formal analysis; with the art of drawing compelling connections between elements of audio-visual style and theoretical arguments; with the construction of a strong thesis statement that is rooted in examples and quotations; and with basic skills of scholarly writing, citation, and argumentation. As much as anything, though, I want to give you a creative space for thinking about what it means to understand reality-based entertainment as a mode of governmentality.
1200-1500 words/ approx. 4-5 pages in 12 pt. Times New Roman, double-spaced and with standard margins (not including footnotes and bibliography).
Make sure the essay engages in a substantive way with at least two (2) relevant course readings—additional research is welcome but not required. Your essay should also reflect a familiarity with debates and ideas covered in lectures, and should cite lectures by date when they inform your claims.
Your paper should perform a detailed close formal analysis of at least one scene from a reality show that we did not screen in class or discuss in detail. Make sure to describe the stylistic elements of the scene very thoroughly—this will form a key piece of evidence for illustrating and supporting your argument about it. Papers that earn full credit in this core aspect of the analysis will attend not only to what we see, but how we see it through this technique as well as other aesthetic features in play.
Make sure to define your terms, taking special care, for instance, to explain what the aesthetic form in question means (“governmentality,” “discipline,” and/or “panopticon”), and referring to course readings or outside research (if needed) for working explanations of any concepts you discuss.
Use MLA or Chicago style citations and make sure to cite all sources properly; incorrect or missing citations will affect the mark the paper receives.If you need help with these formatting styles, you can find clear explanations of them and other helpful information about writing and research at: https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/.
Make sure the essay supports all claims with detailed examples from your scene analysis and quotations and/or ideas from relevant scholarly sources (ie, at least two course readings, lecture if needed). Avoid generalizations and opinions, including with respect to the historical anxieties and/or issues discussed in your paper; refer instead to concrete historical events or reliable academic or journalistic sources that ground your claims.
Remember to leave time before the submission date to copy edit and proofread your paper for grammatical errors and typos.The quality of your writing will affect the mark the paper receives. If you have questions about grammar, essay writing, citation styles, or how to avoid plagiarism, please feel free to consult the Purdue Owl Writing Resource Website, cited above. And if you’ve struggled with grammar and composition in the past, please make sure to schedule an appointment in the Academic Skills Centre or with an ELL tutor well in advance of the due date (see syllabus for further information).
If you think you’ll need guidance or feedback from me, please make sure to get an early start on your research and thinking so that you can come to office hours or make an appointment to discuss the problems or questions you’re confronting. Please note: I cannot offer substantive feedback or advice by e-mail—only very simple practical questions—so if you want to meet to discuss your paper idea, please plan to come to my office hours or request an online appointment in advance. I’ll be happy to talk with you and try to help.
Do not despair if you are still gaining familiarity with some of the terms that scholars use to describe certain formal features of film and TV scenes. It is far more important to me to see you describe how you see whatever happens in the scene and why it is significant in your view.
Keep in mind that your scene analysis will be a key part of the evidence for your argument. Make it as detailed as possible, and feel free to take interpretive risks and be creative—as long as you can explain how an example, quotation, or performance of stylistic analysis supports your claim, you are making a valid analytical argument.
If you’re unsure of how to avoid plagiarism issues, please consult the resources provided by the University and outlined in the syllabus to inform yourself. Feel free to come to office hours or request an appointment to discuss any follow-up questions.