A New Academic Year Ahead

A new academic year is upon us and once more I look to finally begin blogging on a regular basis.

This year already feels different however – in 12 months time I will be handing in my MA dissertation, and the work for that begins now. I have already asserted the topics I’m interested in over the previous modules – television comedy and fandom – and am beginning to piece together fragments of inspiration that will eventually deliver my central thesis. 

I want this academic year to have a focus, however. It’s time to go big or go home – time to start taking risks. Often it feels in the writing of assignments I am merely recycling portions of previous research before gloating over a small synthesis, bludgeoning my way to some successful first-class results. My focus this year is to go further – read complete texts, not just summary chapters. Break down and critique my favoured theorists, not just jump on and bang on about potential links between them. Aim to contribute to the field of cultural theory rather than state where my interests lie.

A lot of my motivation for this research path is a personal journey – it is an attempt to deconstruct my own fandom. Why might I, or any number of sitcom fans, be happy to boxset the same series, over and over again? Am I watching a particular show because of a particular actor, producer, writer? A particular form – mockumentary? Are there elements of nostalgia and comfort, danger and tensions?

This year also stands to be make-or-break in relation to a professional journey as well as a personal one. For starters, I require a further ‘mastery’ over my subject, which begins with a confidence when talking about particular theorists and their writings. I have already aligned myself closely to the fields of research popularised by John Fiske, Henry Jenkins, Matt Hills, Jonathan Gray, Cornel Sandvoss and Brett Mills. They have been the books that have got me started on this path.

What I am looking to do this year is broaden my horizons and begin to look further afield for research that may have a significant impact on my understanding of this field. For instance over the summer I have read with great interest Amanda Lotz’s “Cable Guys”, which investigates what she terms the “male-centered serial” such as Breaking Bad or The Sopranos. I feel Lotz was unfortunate to publish before she could include the series “True Detective” in her work. 

Lotz includes an interesting chapter on ‘Homosocial Enclaves’ while discussing what we could describe as “banter” between on-screen males. Lotz looks at comedy series “The League” and her thoughts on this topic could viably stretch out to any number of television comedy programs and their handling of male relationships. Instantly I believe a quick look at the original BBC version of ‘The Office’ might reveal how homosocial enclaves work under the comedy-documentary style.

I have turned to Matt Hills “How to Do Things With Cultural Theory” to further inspire me as I head into the first semester module that involves a negotiated study aspect. My initial plan for this module is to produce my own module outline, and Hills books is so far inspiring in its critique of how academics (or more specifically new academics such as myself) tend to a more ‘instrumental’ reading of academic texts, rather than a cover-to-cover exploration. I already feel these ideas might bear on how I would produce a module outline. 

Both modules this year might lend to a bit of breathing room as regards to reading literature – the second module entitled “Research Methods” intends to sharpen up my practical execution and thus should allow me further opportunities to get to grips with “proper” academia. The aim is to write on this blog again in 12 months time satisfied that I have earned the title of “master” – not just satisfied to have scored over 70. 

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