Professors present on narratives of television

By Jesse Gaunce
April 11, 2012

Dr. Wright used “The Wire” as the topic for a project he undertook at the Paley Center in Washington, D.C. (Credit: MCT)

The Faculty Development Grant Committee and Office of Academic Affairs sponsored a riveting Faculty Forum on Monday, April 2 in the Grace Hall Boardroom, where Dr. Wright and Dr. Watterson presented their work.

Dr. Paul Wright, assistant professor of English and a co-director of the honors program, opened the forum with his talk entitled “Sibling Rivalry: Film, Literature, and Contemporary Television’s Vast Narratives.”

Wright began his talk by explaining the two big projects he worked on at the Paley Center in Washington, D.C. One of them focused on television auteurs, specifically David Simon, who directed the television drama “The Wire.” Television auteurs are filmmakers or a director who “exercises creative control over his or her works and has a strong personal style,” as Wright defined.

Wright contributed to the David Simon entry by compressing all of Simon’s work into a few pages, which he said was a big challenge.

“That was challenging because I had to fully understand and appreciate all of his work and then synthesize everything,” Wright said.

The next project Wright worked on was a piece about the series finale of “The Wire.”

“This was written in the vein of thinking about how other television series have ended, whether satisfactorily or not,” Wright said. “We wanted to find out what sort of narrative strategies were behind the conclusions of those series.”

Wright compared the show to classical ideas of temporality and the nature of history that went all the way back to Ancient Greek times. He stated that Simon was aware of the tradition behind narratives that “television is so ambitiously trying to pull off.”

After explaining the nature of his projects, Wright went on to show the attendees a few websites that touched on the different kinds of attention that television has gotten in the last 20 years as well as the evolution in the seriousness of thought and interpretation. He explained how television shows begin their downfall and how fans interact with each other after a show has started to go sour.

Wright ended his talk by delving into how television shows become a bigger project when more writers jump on board.

“When more writers contribute to a show, it becomes a more intensely collaborative project and one that you can no longer understand in the old terms of what authorship was,” Wright said. “It’s a golden age for television. We don’t know what’s coming next because it really depends on how media evolves, how they converge, how they diverge and it also depends on how it’s going to be delivered to us.”

Dr. Nancy Watterson, assistant professor of social justice, spoke second with her talk entitled “On Breath, Mediation, Walking the Circle, and Pounding of Fists: Practicing the Arts of Redirection.”

Watterson’s talk centered around her research regarding movement arts, community-based health strategies and contemplated practices through her travels to Taiwan, Singapore, Sri Lanka and local cities such as Manayunk, Pa. and Maple Shade, N.J.

Watterson began by having the attendees participate in a Tai Chi exercise in which they had to hold their arms out and pretend as if they were carrying a ball while relaxing their head and shoulders. This was used so those in attendance would get a sense of what it was like to practice redirecting breath.

“Folklore has to be passed on face-to-face and alongside through solidarity,” Watterson said. “As a folklorist, I would also capture that visually.”

Watterson said she wanted to express how folklore is demonstrated in a visual manner, along with verbal communication.

Watterson concluded by talking about each of the forms of martial arts and other exercises she learned throughout her travels.

Jesse Gaunce

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