Professor of Film & Media Culture and American Studies
Jason Mittell is Professor of Film & Media Culture and American Studies at Middlebury College. He arrived at Middlebury in 2002 after two years teaching at Georgia State University. He received a B.A. from Oberlin College and a Ph.D. from University of Wisconsin - Madison.
He is the author of Genre and Television: From Cop Shows to Cartoons in American Culture, (Routledge, 2004), Television and American Culture (Oxford University Press, 2010), and Complex Television: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling (NYU Press, forthcoming), and and the co-editor of How to Watch Television (NYU Press, 2013). He maintains the blog Just TV.
His research interests include television history and criticism, media and cultural history, genre theory, narratology, animation and children’s media, videogames, and new media studies & technological convergence. He was a founding member of the Public Policy Committee for the Society for Cinema & Media Studies, and is actively involved in advocating for fair use rights in education and media. See his CV for more details, or his scholarly writings for downloadable content.
Professor Mittell teaches a range of courses on media and American culture. Recent courses include Television & American Culture, Theories of Popular Culture, Urban America & Serial Television: Watching The Wire, Sustainable Television: Producing Environmental Media, Storytelling in Film & Media, Media Technology & Cultural Change, and The Art of Animation.
▲ indicates offered in the current term
▹ indicates offered in the upcoming term[s]
AMST 0277 / FMMC 0277 - Watching the Wire
Urban America & Serial Television: Watching /The Wire/
Frequently hailed as a masterpiece of American television, The Wire shines a light on urban decay in contemporary America, creating a dramatic portrait of Baltimore's police, drug trade, shipping docks, city hall, public schools, and newspapers over five serialized seasons. In this course, we will watch and discuss all of this remarkable-and remarkably entertaining-series, and place it within the dual contexts of contemporary American society and the aesthetics of television. This is a time-intensive course with a focus on close viewing and discussion, and opportunities for critical analysis and research about the show's social contexts and aesthetic practices. (FMMC 0104, FMMC 0236, or AMST 0211) 3 hrs. sem./screen
AMST 0500 - Independent Study ▲ ▹
Select project advisor prior to registration.
Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Fall 2012, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Spring 2015
AMST 0700 - Senior Essay
For students who have completed AMST 0400 and are not pursuing an honors thesis. Under the guidance of one or more faculty members, each student will complete research leading toward a one-term, one-credit interdisciplinary senior essay on some aspect of American culture. The essay is to be submitted no later than the last Thursday of the fall semester. (Select project advisor prior to registration)
AMST 0710 - Honors Thesis ▹
For students who have completed AMST 0705, and qualify to write two-credit interdisciplinary honors thesis. on some aspect of American culture. The thesis may be completed on a fall/winter schedule or a fall/spring schedule. (Select a thesis advisor prior to registration)
Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Spring 2013, Spring 2014, Spring 2015
ENAM 0700 - Senior Essay: Critical Writing
Senior Thesis: Critical Writing
Individual guidance and seminar (discussions, workshops, tutorials) for those undertaking one-term projects in literary criticism or analysis. All critical thesis writers also take the essay workshop (ENAM 700Z) in either Fall or Spring Term.
ENAM 0710 - Senior Thesis: Critical Writ.
Senior Thesis: Critical Writing
Individual guidance and seminar (discussions, workshops, tutorials) for those undertaking two-term projects in literary criticism or analysis. All critical thesis writers also take the thesis workshop (ENAM 710z) in both Fall and Spring terms.
FMMC 0104 / AMST 0104 - Television & American Culture ▲
Television and American Culture
This course explores American life in the last six decades through an analysis of our central medium: television. Spanning a history of television from its origins in radio to its future in digital convergence, we will consider television's role in both reflecting and constituting American society through a variety of approaches. Our topical exploration will consider the economics of the television industry, television's role within American democracy, the formal attributes of a variety of television genres, television as a site of gender and racial identity formation, television's role in everyday life, and the medium's technological and social impacts. 2 hrs. lect./3 hrs. screen
Fall 2010, Fall 2012, Spring 2014, Fall 2014
FMMC 0282 - Videogames: Art/Culture/Medium
Videogames as Art, Culture, and Medium
Videogames have become one of the world's most important entertainment forms, exerting broad influence economically, aesthetically, culturally, and socially. This course explores the medium of the videogame in its multiple facets and offers an introduction to the academic subfield of game studies. We will read about game history, design, and cultural criticism, as well as play an array of games to gain a better understanding of how this medium matters. Prior background in gaming is not required. (FMMC 0101 or FMMC 0104 or by approval) 3 hrs. sem./lab
FMMC 0285 - Producing Environmental Media ▹
Producing Environmental Media
Topic is determined by the instructor - refer to section for the course description.
Spring 2011, Spring 2015
FMMC 0355 / AMST 0355 - Theories of Popular Culture ▹
Theories of Popular Culture
This course introduces a range of theoretical approaches to study popular culture, exploring the intersection between everyday life, mass media, and broader political and historical contexts within the United States. We will consider key theoretical readings and approaches to studying culture, including ideology and hegemony theory, political economy, audience studies, subcultural analysis, the politics of taste, and cultural representations of identity. Using these theoretical tools, we will examine a range of popular media and sites of cultural expression, from television to toys, technology to music, to understand popular culture as a site of ongoing political and social struggle. (Formerly AMST/FMMC 0275) (FMMC 0102 or FMMC 0104 or FMMC 0236 or AMST 0211) 3 hrs. lect./disc./3 hrs. screen.
Spring 2011, Spring 2015
FMMC 0357 - Storytelling in Film & Media
Storytelling in Film & Media
All media feature their own particular techniques of storytelling. We will explore how narrative forms work differently between film, television, and digital media such as videogames. Drawing on theories of narrative developed to understand the structures, techniques, creative practices, and cultural impacts of narrative for literature and film, we will consider how different media offer possibilities to
creators and viewers to tap into the central human practice of storytelling. Students will read theoretical materials and view examples of film, serial television, and games, culminating in a final research project, to better our understanding of narrative as a cultural practice. (FMMC0101 or FMMC0104) 3 hrs. sem./3 hrs. screen.
Fall 2010, Fall 2012
FMMC 0507 - Independent Project ▲ ▹
Advanced Independent work in Film and Media Culture
Guidelines for submitting proposals are available on the Film & Media Culture web site along with a list of prerequisites.
Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Winter 2012, Fall 2012, Winter 2013, Spring 2013, Fall 2013, Winter 2014, Spring 2014, Fall 2014, Winter 2015, Spring 2015
FMMC 0700 - Senior Tutorial
Film and Media Senior Tutorial
All FMMC majors must complete this course, in which they undertake a critical essay, a screenplay, or a video. The following prerequisite courses are required: for a video project: FMMC 0105, FMMC 0335, FMMC/CRWR 0106; for a screenwriting project: FMMC 0105, FMMC/CRWR 0106, FMMC/CRWR 0341; for a research essay: demonstrated knowledge in the topic of the essay, as determined in consultation with the project advisor, and coursework relevant to the topic as available.
FMMC 0707 - Senior Independent Work ▹
Senior Honors Project in Film and Media Culture
During the first term of their senior year, students with a GPA of A- in film and media culture courses may apply to undertake a senior project (FMMC 0707) for honors, with the project to be completed the last term of the senior year.
Fall 2010, Winter 2011, Spring 2011, Winter 2012, Winter 2013, Winter 2014, Winter 2015
FMMC 1020 - Collaborative Video Projects ▹
Collaborative Video Projects
In this course groups of students will organize, devise, and produce original video projects concluding with a public screening. Students must request approval from the instructor prior to winter term registration via the application on the FMMC website. Students must do significant preproduction before January. Projects will be self-guided with oversight from the faculty, and subject to peer review. (Pass/Fail; Approval required)
FYSE 1396 - Digital Media Literacy
Digital Media Literacy
From Wikipedia to texting, Facebook to PowerPoint, digital media have dramatically changed how we read, write, and communicate in the 21st century. In this course, we will explore what it means to be “literate” today, considering how we read, research, write, create, and present ideas and information, and how these changes impact our society. We will focus on educational practices, with outreach into local schools to explore how we should teach literacy for the next generation, and prepare students for a 21st century liberal arts education. 3 hrs. sem/lab
STLD 1005 - Collaborative Video Production
Collaborative Video Production
In this course, students will produce four weekly episodes (each five to ten minutes in length) of a situational comedy webseries to be posted on Vimeo prime. Students will be responsible for production at all levels, from the initial writing process to the final edits. While certain roles may be delegated (Head Editor, Director of Photography, Head Writer, etc.), all members of the class will have responsibility and input at every level. A typical week will include filming-intensive days on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, editing-heavy days on Thursday and Friday, and weekends devoted to writing the following week’s episode. (Approval Required; Credit/No Credit)
Selected Recent Publications
Complex TV: The Poetics of Contemporary Television Storytelling (New York University Press, forthcoming).
How to Watch Television, co-edited with Ethan Thompson (New York University Press, 2013). Co-authored introduction; individual contribution of “Phineas & Ferb: Children’s Television.”
Television and American Culture (Oxford University Press, 2010).
“The Qualities of Complexity: Vast versus Dense Seriality in Contemporary Television,” in Television Aesthetics and Style, edited by Steven Peacock and Jason Jacobs (Bloomsbury, 2013), 45-56.
“The Wire in the Context of American Television,” in The Wire: Race, Class & Genre, edited by Liam Kennedy and Stephen Shapiro (University of Michigan Press, 2012), 15-32.
“Wikis and Participatory Fandom,” in The Participatory Cultures Handbook, edited by Aaron Delwiche and Jennifer Henderson (Routledge, 2012), 35-42.
“Previously On: Prime Time Serials and the Mechanics of Memory,” in Intermediality and Storytelling, edited by Marina Grishakova and Marie-Laure Ryan (De Gruyter, 2010), 78-98.
“TiVoing Childhood: Time Shifting a Generation’s Concept of Television,” in Flow TV: Television in the Age of Media Convergence, edited by Michael Kackman et. al. (Routledge, 2010).
"All in the Game: The Wire, Serial Storytelling and Procedural Logic," in Third Person: Authoring and Exploring Vast Narratives, edited by Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Pat Harrigan (MIT Press, 2009), 429-38.
"Lost in a Great Story: Evaluation in Narrative Television (and Television Studies)," in Reading LOST, edited by Roberta Pearson (I.B. Tauris, 2009), 119-38.
"Sites of Participation: Wiki Fandom and the Case of Lostpedia," Transformative Works and Cultures Vol. 3 (Fall 2009).
"Film and Television Narrative," invited contributor to The Cambridge Companion to Narrative, edited by David Herman (Cambridge University Press, 2007), 156-71.
"Speculation on Spoilers: Lost Fandom, Narrative Consumption, and Rethinking Textuality," co-authored with Jonathan Gray, Particip@tions 4:1, May 2007.
"Narrative Complexity in Contemporary American Television," The Velvet Light Trap #58, Fall 2006, 29-40.