University of Exeter Press

Television with Stanley Cavell in Mind

    • 348 Pages

    This collection of new work on the philosophical importance of television starts from a model for reading films proposed by Stanley Cavell, whereby film in its entirety—actors and production included—brings its own intelligence to its realization. In turn, this intelligence educates us as viewers, leading us to recognize and appreciate our individual cinephilic tastes, and to know ourselves and each other better. This reading is even more valid for TV series. Yet, in spite of the progress of film-philosophy, there has been a paucity of concurrent analysis of the ethical stakes, the modes of expressiveness, and the moral education involved in television series. Perhaps most conspicuously, there has been a lack of focus on the experience of the viewer. 

    Cavell highlighted popular cinema's capacity to create a common culture for millions. This power has become dispersed across other bodies of work and practices, most notably TV series, which have largely appropriated the responsibility of widening the perspectives of their publics, a role once associated with the silver screen. Just as Cavell's reading of films involved moral perfectionism in its intent, this project is also perfectionist, extending a similar aesthetic and ethical method to readings of the small screen. Because TV series are works that are public and thus shared, and often global in reach, they fulfil an educational role—whether intended or not—and one that enables viewers to anchor and appreciate the value of their everyday experiences.

    Contributions from: William Rothman, Martin Shuster, Elisabeth Bronfen, Hugo Clémot, David LaRocca, Jeroen Gerrits, Stephen Mulhall, Michelle Devereaux, Thibaut de Saint-Maurice, Hent de Vries, Catherine Wheatley, Byron Davies, Sandra Laugier, Paul Standish, Robert Sinnerbrink.

    This landmark collection of essays is an invaluable exploration of Stanley Cavell’s contributions to the study of modern visual media, and a pioneering demonstration of the value of philosophical attention to television in the new era of long form, “prestige,” “cinematic television.” The very “fact” of television, its influence, its pervasiveness, its social function, its aesthetic distinctiveness, its unique relation to the viewer, remains as mysterious today as it was when Cavell began writing about the medium in the nineteen-eighties, and the editors of this volume have done a superb job of collecting and curating work both indebted to Cavell and ground-breaking in their own right.

    Robert B. Pippin, Evelyn Stefansson Nef Distinguished Service Professor, The University of Chicago

    LaRocca and Laugier have brought together in one book many of the most creative and inspiring voices working on television and popular culture in contemporary philosophy. By taking forward the genius of Cavell’s approach – his emphasis on the work the medium does on us, its capacity to educate our moral sense – this volume charts one of the most exciting and important new directions in the study of TV. In so doing, it also transforms what it means to do philosophy in the present.

    Andrew Brandel, Assistant Research Professor and Assistant Director of Jewish Studies, Pennsylvania State University

    Television with Stanley Cavell in Mind marks a significant leap forward in philosophical studies of television. The volume answers lingering quibbles about the respectability or intellectual seriousness of the medium by addressing Cavell’s own hopes for the aesthetic possibilities of television. But perhaps even more importantly, by demonstrating through chapter after chapter of incisive commentary and critique the many ways television is “a force for pedagogical and perfectionist possibility” the book puts to rest the idea of these quibbles once and for all. Reading these chapters, no one could imagine that serious philosophical thought or cultural criticism can afford to dismiss a genre so formative for contemporary thought and experience.

    Kathryn Reklis, Associate Professor of Theology and Director of Comparative Literature, Fordham University

    Introduction: The Fact and Fiction of Television: Stanley Cavell and the Terms of Television Philosophy DAVID LaROCCA and SANDRA LAUGIER
    DOI: 10.47788/KRMY5433

    1. Justifying Justified WILLIAM ROTHMAN
    DOI: 10.47788/AGFC4945
    2. ‘You Get Paid for Pain’: Kingdom and New Television MARTIN SHUSTER
    DOI: 10.47788/LUXS1638
    3. To See and to Stop: The Problem of Abdication in Succession ELISABETH BRONFEN
    DOI: 10.47788/ZIFG7093
    4. When TV is on TV: Metatelevision and the Art of Watching TV with the Royal Family in The Crown DAVID LaROCCA
    DOI: 10.47788/WIGS5588

    5. It’s My Party and I’ll Die Even If I Don’t Want To: Repetition, Acknowledgment, and Cavellian Perfectionism in Russian Doll MICHELLE DEVEREAUX
    DOI: 10.47788/XVUL5590
    6. ‘Nobody’s Perfect’: Moral Imperfectionism in Ozark HENT de VRIES
    DOI: 10.47788/VCBJ3466
    7. A Zigzag of a Hundred Tacks: Narrative Complexity in The Good Place CATHERINE WHEATLEY
    DOI: 10.47788/TTNJ9122
    8. Im/Moral Perfectionism: On TV’s Two Worlds JEROEN GERRITS
    DOI: 10.47788/LPIC1465

    9. The Sublime and the American Dream in Fargo HUGO CLÉMOT
    DOI: 10.47788/FIVE2115
    10. TV Time, Recurrence, and the Situation of the Spectator: An Approach via Stanley Cavell, Raúl Ruiz, and Ruiz’s Late Chilean Series Litoral (2008) BYRON DAVIES
    DOI: 10.47788/UUOB5662
    11. Education about Trust in Homeland THIBAUT de SAINT MAURICE
    DOI: 10.47788/YQZP9599
    12. Small Acts PAUL STANDISH
    DOI: 10.47788/UWMZ4497

    13. The Event of Television: Sitcoms, Superheroes, and WandaVision STEPHEN MULHALL
    DOI: 10.47788/ZDKW6571
    14. Love, Remarriage, and The Americans SANDRA LAUGIER
    DOI: 10.47788/CWPQ2215
    15. True Detective: Existential Scepticism and Television Crime Drama ROBERT SINNERBRINK
    DOI: 10.47788/WMOI4740


    David LaRocca studied philosophy, film, rhetoric, and religion at Buffalo, Berkeley, Vanderbilt, and Harvard. He is the author or contributing editor of more than a dozen books, including a suite of volumes in film-philosophy: The Philosophy of Charlie Kaufman (2011), The Philosophy of War Films (2014), The Philosophy of Documentary Film: Image, Sound, Fiction, Truth (2017). More recently he edited The Thought of Stanley Cavell and Cinema: Turning Anew to the Ontology of Film a Half-Century after The World Viewed (2020), Inheriting Stanley Cavell: Memories, Dreams, Reflections (2020), and Movies with Stanley Cavell in Mind (2021). 

    Sandra Laugier, a former student at the Ecole normale supérieure and at Harvard University, is Professor of Philosophy at Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne. She has published extensively on ordinary language philosophy (Wittgenstein, Austin, Cavell), moral and political philosophy, gender studies and the ethics of care, popular film, and TV series, and is the author of over 30 books in total, including Why We Need Ordinary Language Philosophy (2013), and Politics of the Ordinary: Care, Ethics, and Forms of Life (2020). She is a columnist at the French Journal Libération, and is the translator of Stanley Cavell’s work in French.


      • 348 Pages