Teaching The Wire


My spring semester starts next week, and as I believe both in making my teaching work publicly available to the world, and in publicly acknowledging that teaching is my primary job 9 months of the year, here are the syllabi for my courses.The first is an old standard, Theories of Popular Culture – I’ve gotten this course in a good place over the years, serving as an introduction to cultural studies and diving into the deep-end of theory for undergraduates without drowning. Feel free to poach, in the spirit of de Certeau of course!

The second course is new to me, and quite an experiment: Urban America & Serial Television: Watching The Wire. We’ll be treating the entire series as the core text, as one might study the novels of Dostoevsky or drama of Shakespeare. Watching 5 episodes a week, we’ll be considering the show both as an aesthetic achievement and social argument, asking two key questions: what does The Wire teach us about the possibilities of television, and what does it teach us about contemporary urban America? I’ll try to post here regularly about the challenges and revelations about teaching a long-form television narrative in its entirety, something that I do not believe has been done before in this form (if anyone knows of similar models, let me know).

Needless to say, I’m pretty excited to be heading back to Baltimore (virtually) and leading 25 students on the journey. Stop by the blog and join the conversation!


10 Responses to “Teaching The Wire”

  1. 1 Sarah

    I’ve been reading your blog since around the time the fifth season of The Wire started up and I am really excited that there is a course like this happening somewhere in the country. I’ve used bits and pieces from The Wire in my classroom (I teach English at a small liberal arts university in the Midwest), but I’ve always wished there was a way to increase the scope; for each scene I choose, there’s another handful that I’d love to use as well. I’m going to be following your semester with great interest.

  2. I’m really looking forward to hearing how this goes, Jason. I’ve always wanted to see what would happen if you could teach a course start to finish like this. In the soaps course, we watched As the World Turns for the duration of the semester, generally with five episodes per week. At the time, I found little evidence of someone teaching a course based on one text, but the soap opera text just can’t be watched from beginning to end, so I look forward to seeing how this model goes.

  3. Hey Jason! It looks like you have some company in the undergrad Wire-themed courses. This is one at UC Berkeley called “What’s So Great About The Wire?” taught by Linda Williams. It looks like this one is more about relating the show to literature, but it does seem like they’ll be watching most of the series. http://filmstudies.berkeley.edu/undergrad%20courses%20Sp2009.html#105

  4. Thank you for sharing your course syllabus and blog on The Wire with everyone. I plan to watch and read along from home. Do you welcome comments from those of us out in the ether?

  5. Thanks all for commenting. Steve – I’ve been in touch with Linda Williams about her course, and we’ve shared notes (& poached from each other!). The irony is that hers (at big state school) is a 15-person seminar, and mine (at small liberal arts college) is 28 people with more clamoring to add!

    Beck & everyone – please do feel free to join the conversation on the course site! As long as you follow the spoiler policy…

  6. Jason, great news. I’ll be sure to join the convo if and when I have something to add.

  7. 7 Trevor

    Hello Jason,

    My name is Trevor and I’m a graduate student over at Emerson College. I’m in a course called Television Culture with Jane Shattuc and I asked her to recommend any extra reading I might be able to do since I’m contemplating the idea of going on to a media studies PhD, and she directed me to your blog, amongst other things.

    It’s not exactly The Wire, but over at Emerson a professor named David Kociemba has been teaching an undergraduate senior seminar course for a couple of years on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know it’s sparked a certain amount of controversy at the school as to whether or not it’s appropriate to teach an entire class on a single television text, especially one as campy as Buffy. I’ve never taken it myself, but I’ve heard pretty enthusiastic comments from students who have taken it.

  8. 8 Bonnie Lyons

    I’ll be teaching all five seasons of “The Wire “next spring (2012). I’d really appreciate having your syllabi and suggestions–and I’ll share mine of course. I am not a media Looking forward to an email conversation…
    Thanks! BonnieLyons

  1. 1 Teaching A Videogame - SE4N
  2. 2 Ephemeralness » Blog Archive » studying the wire

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