Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously

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Continuum Publ., 1992 - Performing Arts - 315 pages
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We all know about literacy and its recent upper-crust cousin cultural literacy. The time has come for TELELITERACY--a concept that defines, explores, and embraces what we know about, and have learned from, the mass medium of television. This clear-eyed and lively book shows that television, contrary to the opinion of many, is a medium that is opening the American mind. The knee-jerk reaction television often elicits from critics, literati, even well-intentioned parents and educators actually follows a pattern that has come down to us through history. In The Republic, for example, Plato attacked poetry and drama on the grounds that they were mere "imitations". His early denunciation of what we would today call the docudrama also implied a disdain for the popularity of all public performances. Closer to our own time, little respect was initially accorded radio and film, though both (significantly the latter) are now accepted as subjects for serious study. Grounding his argument in such historical fact, television critic David Bianculli goes on to present in Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously a spirited argument for television. "It's time to realize TV must be doing something right", Bianculli observes, "to reach and affect so many people". If one hasn't watched television in the recent past, one has missed I, Claudius; Holocaust; Shogun; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Brideshead Revisited; The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby; Anne of Green Gables; The Singing Detective; the Gulf War; The Civil War; the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings; the collapse of the Soviet Union; Bill Moyers talking with Joseph Campbell; and much more. As Bianculli admits, "Because television isso widely and convincingly attacked, it isn't easy to come to its defense without being put on the defensive. It's as though, by taking TV seriously, you automatically prevent yourself from being taken seriously". But through interviews conducted expressly for this book, with Peter Jennings, Linda Ellerbee, Bill Moyers, Fred Rogers, Kurt Vonnegut, Bill Cosby, and many others, we emphatically see the time has come to take television quite seriously. The vast body of knowledge we all share--whether we know it or not, whether we admit to it or not (Quick!--Name the brothers Karamazov. Now, name Bonanza's brothers Cartwright.)--testifies to the impact television has on our lives. The concept of TELELITERACY is with us to recognize and explore, and it will help us answer the essential question of our time: TV or not TV?

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TELELITERACY: Taking Television Seriously

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A ringing defense of TV as a forum for art, information, and education, and as a candidate in the more-cultured-than-thou sweepstakes. Bianculli is a TV critic for The New York Post, The Philadelphia ... Read full review


Television Deserves More Respect
Some Television Is Literatureand Vice Versa

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On Media Violence
W. James Potter
Limited preview - 1999
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About the author (1992)

David Bianculli has been a television critic for more than thirty years, currently on NPR's Fresh Air" with Terry Gross and at He is also the author of two books on television and its impact: Teleliteracy: Taking Television Seriously" and Dictionary of Teleliteracy: Television's 500 Biggest Hits, Misses, and Events".

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