understanding media

Week 4

Vehicle Strand: Narratives
In this first part of the class we examine the importance of narratives to the study of media messages, concentrating particularly on the work of Joseph Campbell. We apply Campbell's notion of the monomyth, the universal story of the hero's journey, both to Star Wars and to The Matrix.
Required Reading: Branston and Stafford (2010), Ch. 2: 'Narratives'.

Environment Strand: The Laws of Media
In this second part of the class we look briefly at the (alleged) end of narrative online and in particular at the influence of the new computer environment, focusing on The Phantom Menace and Geoff Ryman's hypertext novel 253. We discuss McLuhan's four Laws of the Media, also known as the tetrad, which provide a systematic structure for investigating the effects of any given medium.
Optional Reading: McLuhan and Fiore, 1967, p. 123.
Optional Reading: Levinson, 1999, Ch. 15.

Module Forum
Topics under discussion in the Module Forum this week include the significance of the different telephones within The Matrix, Agent Smith's 'disease speech', various aspects of Joseph Campbell's consideration of the monomyth, open and closed narratives, and McLuhan's four laws of media.
For more information on the Module Forum see the section on Assessment in the Module Handbook.

Case Studies
If you choose to write a Case Study using the concepts drawn from this week's vehicle strand you will need to concentrate on some aspect of narrative theory. Perhaps you might apply Campbell's theory of the monomyth to a film, novel, comic or TV episode, using your example to examine the strengths and weaknesses of his approach.
Useful Reading: Branston and Stafford, 2010, Ch. 2; Campbell, 1993; Lawrence and Jewett, 2002; Segal, 1987; O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, 2008, Ch. 10, 11; O'Sullivan, Dutton and Rayner, 2003, pp. 44-51; Watson, 2003, Ch. 6; Campbell and Moyers, 1988; Thwaites et al., 2002, Ch. 6; Voytilla, 1999; Noble, 2002.
Or perhaps you would like to investigate further the impact of computers and the internet on a particular narrative or on literature as a whole. If you would rather make use of McLuhan's four Laws of the Media you might like to choose some communication medium or technology and research what it has amplified, obsolesced, retrieved and reversed into. In his two articles on the subject McLuhan himself briefly mentions cable TV, housing, elevators, clothing, steamboats, photocopiers and money, amongst many others.
Useful Reading: Murray, 1997; Birkerts, 1994; Birkerts, 1994b; Spender, 1995, Ch. 2; Levinson, 1999, Ch. 15; Gordon, 2010, pp. 140-50; Branston, 2001; Gordon and Willmarth, 1997, pp. 122-32; McLuhan, 1975; McLuhan, 1977; McLuhan and McLuhan, 1992; McLuhan (no date); Bogost, 2010; Tyler, 2008; Marchand, 1998, pp. 252-54; Moulthrop, 1991; Miles, 1996.
Whatever you choose, you will probably want to arrange a tutorial with the Module Tutor. For more information on the Case Study see the section on Assessment in the Module Handbook.

Before Next Week's Class You Need To...
(1) Read Branston and Stafford (2010), Ch. 4: 'Representations'.

If you're stuck or confused, post your problem on the Module Forum or .