Marathon Class

I have the privilege of teaching Comm 415 Media Marathoning in spring of 2015 at Nazareth College. I will update this page periodically with class lessons and activities. The Media Marathoning Syllabus has changed quite a bit since 2012.

Week 8: Moral Ambiguity
Readings: Perks Chapters 8 and 12; Krakowiak and Oliver “When Good Characters Do Bad Things.”
Discuss research questions in the course Wiki
Discuss key points of readings
One article show and tell
Activity: Write list of ambiguously moral characters from books, film, TV. Work in small groups to identify key figures of ambiguous morality. Select image, write up brief ambiguous morality bio (2-3 sentences, including good and bad). Find when the character debuted. How should we deal with spoilers?
Model for this project.
Two article show and tells
Spring break!

Week 7: Dark and Light in Marathoned Stories
Assignments: Read Perks Chapters 5, 6, and 7. Also watch Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Define Kenneth Burke’s equipment for living (E for L).
E for L clip of Chris Traeger in Parks and Rec (Season 6, Episode 7 at 16 minutes)
Why is it easy to receive lessons from marathoned stories?
Conscious E for L: What resonated with your experiences?
Deontological vs. teleological ethics
Villain characteristics, Frankenstein’s monster, E for L: Why do we crave rebirth?
Hero characteristics, E for L: What is the appeal of the morality delusion?
Key scenes for hero and villain in LoTR?
Activity: Make post on your blog or this one describing an additional hero or villain characteristic (shared among 2 more more characters from different stories). Content: Briefly describe the characteristic. Include a brief clip illustrating the characteristic. Discuss what equipment for living this characteristic offers. Consider aesthetics and formatting.
Sample post

Week 6: Cognitive Dimensions of Media Engagement
Readings: Mittell “Lost in a Great Story”; Perks Chapter 4 “Cognitive Engagement”
Musical selection: Outkast’s “Roses”
Discuss the findings from early-semester class evals
Perks clarifies Bourdieu’s argument about cultural capital
What is Mittell arguing TV scholarship does not do that it should?
What are the pitfalls of the move he recommends? (Connect back to Bourdieu)
Why is Lost a “great” show?
Show the opener to Breaking Bad
Perks chapter thesis and main points
Key vocabulary (old and new): narrative complexity, diegetic trust, endlessly deferred narratives, long-form story arc
Spoilers: Read VanDerWerff article
Connect spoiler discussion back to narrative pleasures, operational aesthetics, storytelling complexity, Breaking Bad opener

Week 5: Emotional Dimensions of Media Engagement

Readings: Horton and Wohl ” Mass Communication and Para-Social Interaction,” Perks Chapter 3 “Affective Involvement,” Eyal and Cohen “Parasocial Breakup”
Thesis and main points of Horton and Wohl
Clip: The Office season 2, episode 24.
What of the narrative, character development, and camera rhetoric encourages the formation of parasocial relationships?
Choose a character and critique the episode as that person.
Thesis and main points of Perks Chapter 3 “Affective Involvement”
Key vocabulary from Perks: pseudo-avatar, two-way relationship, diegetic trust, novice identification
Thesis and main points of Eyal and Cohen “Parasocial Breakup”
What makes a gratifying series finale?
Key question from Perks reading: When we dislike a series ending, is it because we really don’t like the ending, or are we sad that our friends’ stories are over?
Responses to Soprano’s ending, after viewing video discussion from Maureen Ryan, Sarah Bunting, Matt Zoller Seitz, and Ryan McGee

Week 4: Behavioral Patterns in Media Engagement

Readings: Dayan and Katz “Defining Media Events”; Perks “Behavioral Patterns”
Thesis of each reading? Main points? Questions raised?
Difference between marathon and media event?
Similar themes with previous readings?
Pathologizing binge-watching: recent press release
Dialogue with the press release through this activity: Divide class into Super Bowl watchers and Media Marathoners, respond to the following questions: What led up to the event? What motivated you to engage in the experience? What emotions did you experience? What behaviors did you exhibit? What was the event’s syntax (its order)? What values did you take from the storytelling that was part of the event? How do you feel when reflecting back on the experience?
Three article show and tells

Week 3: Active Audiences

Readings: Jenkins “How Texts Become Real”; Perks “A Walk through the Wardrobe”
Group work: Connections, contradictions among the two readings?
Thesis of each chapter? Main points? Questions raised?
Run Lola Run (trailer viewing), the Rashomon effect, and ludic space
Read Janet Murray Hamlet on the Holodeck excerpt “Digital Environments are Encyclopedic”
Encyclopedic worlds Jeopardy (PowerPoint file forthcoming)
Two article show and tells

Week 2: Why is Media Marathoning a Contemporary Trend?

Readings: Perks Media Marathoning Introduction; Mittell “Narrative Complexity”
Mittell Article Questions: Thesis? Main points? What additional shows would you add? How/why do they fit the model? What are complexity’s benefits to viewers? What are its economic benefits to content-producers?
Group Work Defining Key Terms: marathoning vs. bingeing, convergence culture, paratexts, entrance flow, insulated flow, time shifting vs. chronology shifting, transmedia storytelling, auteur, operational aesthetics, Rashomon effect
Perks Chapter Questions: Thesis? Main points? Additional Questions? What new services and technologies can update the book? Discuss HBO’s proposed online-only service.
Viewing: Community’s “Remedial Chaos Theory” (Season 3, Episode 4)
Article “Show and Tell”: 2 students

Week 1: Introduction to Course

Ice breaker: Find the classmate whose Netflix queue and Kindle library are most likely to align with yours.
Activity: Operational definitions of media marathoning; Begin class wiki for media marathoning research questions
Readings: Hibberd (2013), Jurgensen (2012), McNamara (2012)
Discussion Questions: What commonalities and contradictions do you see among the articles?
Viewing: How I Met Your Mother “Trilogy Time” (Season 7, Episode 20)
Discussion Questions: What does Trilogy Time have in common with marathons you’ve done? What unique storytelling devices do you see in this episode? What makes HIMYM marathonable?


Here is the syllabus I used to teach COMM 434 Media Marathoning in the fall of 2012.

Nazareth College’s Happy Media Marathoning Class of 2012

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *