11.15.21 | Sandra Laugier, “The Fact and Fiction of Television”

When Cavell’s “The Fact of Television” was published in Daedalus in 1982, it was still very much one among “themes out of school”. Since the early 1980s, however, television studies has entered the mainstream academy and been subject to a number of philosophical investigations. In the 2020s we do not have to contend with a legitimation crisis: there is a corpus of good television, a competency for reading it, but also a need for deeper analysis (perhaps with/ after a pandemic when many have returned to the small screen).

Television fiction has also recently been profoundly transformed by digital media, networks, and platforms which have also exponentially expanded beyond the origins of the traditional television set.

This new reality of television includes the power of TV series and the grip they maintain on contemporary viewers. This power would appear to emerge from television’s integration into everyday life, and through the constancy of our contact with fictional characters (sometimes for years or decades). Cavell defined the ontology of film by “the question what becomes of particular people, and specific locales, and subjects and motifs”—and adds that the “source of data for its answer” is “just those objects and people that are in fact to be found in the succession of films, or passages of films, that matter to us”: this is also our form of life with TV series.

11.15.21, 6-7:30 pm ET

Mergenthaler 426, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore


Zoom – register here: https://sawyer-11-15.eventbrite.com/

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