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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Julie Kantor

Doctoral Student



MFA Columbia University

MA CUNY Brooklyn College

BA Columbia University


AMS 311S • America's Reality Tv

29954 • Fall 2015
Meets MWF 1200pm-100pm BUR 436A
show description


Reality Television is the most ubiquitous and popular programming on American Television, garnering 50 percent of prime time viewers in 2013. Though most Americans claim hatred of reality shows, the influence of the programming and its reflection of American culture is undeniable; the shows' mediated narratives reverberate with American's desires, fears, and showcase our discourses and discursive production. Through the study of reality television, we can understand ideals and forms of American citizenship, race, gender, sexuality and class. This class will use a variety of disciplines, including American studies, media studies, anthropology, sociology, psychoanalysis, and theoretical lenses, such as affect, performance, and Foulcauldian genealogy to unpack the narratives produced by and around these shows. The class will look at a variety of reality programs, including makeover, identity-based (i.e. The Real Housewives, Shahs of Sunset), competition, and therapeutic shows (Hoarders, Intervention, Couples Therapy) to ask questions about American social life and culture. This class will also explore realms of culture and life where we can follow the bleed over of reality television; that these reality stars' real lives are continually followed on and off the shows speaks to cultural obsessions and fixations that are a part of the reality of American lives.


 Possible Texts:


Susan Lepselter, "The Disorder of Things: Hoarding Narratives in Popular Media"

David Grazian, "Neoliberalism and the Realities of Reality Television"

Neal Saye, "No "Survivors," No "American Idol," No "Road Rules" in "The Real

World" of "Big Brother": Consumer/reality, Hyper/reality, and Post/reality in

"Reality" TV"


Selections/Essays from Texts:

Burton P. Buchanan, Amber J., Narro, Alison F. Slade eds., Reality Television:

Oddities of Culture

Rachel Dubrofsky, The Surveillance of Women on Reality Television: Watching

The Bachelor and The Bachelorette

Leigh Edwards, The Triumph of Reality TV: The Revolution in American


James Hay, Laurie Ouellete eds, Better Living Through Reality TV: Television

and Post-Welfare Citizenship

Mischa Kavka, Reality Television, Affect and Intimacy: Reality Matters

Susan Murray, Laurie Ouellette eds, Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture

Katherine Sender, The Makeover: Reality Television and Reflexive Audiences

Brenda R. Weber, Makeover TV: Selfhood, Citizenship, and Celebrity



Weekly Responses to Readings: 25%

Final paper proposal (1 page): 10%

Class Discussion Leader: 10%

Annotated Bibliography (5-6 sources): 10%

First paper draft/peer review: 10%

Final presentation (10 mins): 15%

Final paper (10-12 pages): 20%

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