The Selfridge Lecture: The Event of Television: Sitcoms, Superheroes and "WandaVision", by Prof. Stephen Mulhall

Thursday, April 7, 2022 - 12:30pm to 2:00pm
Abstract: In Prof. Mulhall’s earlier work on film, the relation between cinema and television was addressed in the course of considering a variety of Hollywood movies that he claimed were doing philosophical work, and that were adaptations of televisual originals (eg 'Mission Impossible', 'Star Trek'). Stanley Cavell's long-neglected essay on television, with its ideas about the role of genre in both media, and its characterization of the situation comedy genre in particular, played a key role in his thinking. But the advent and development of the Marvel Cinematic Universe threatened to make his favored model for understanding sequences of Hollywood movies (such as those in the 'Alien' series) otiose, or at least unduly simple, since the relationship between individual films in that cinematic cosmology was far more complex, although no less philosophically interesting. At the same time, the advent of what is often called ‘New Television’ - epitomized in long-form narrative dramas such as ‘The Wire’, ‘The Sopranos’, and ‘Breaking Bad’ – have increasingly been taken to have revolutionized the televisual medium, to the point of problematizing its differentiation from cinema. In this paper, Prof. Mulhall wants to revisit these issues and concerns by looking at the way the MCU has extended itself into television - early on with series such as 'Agents of Shield', but more recently with 'WandaVision', which will be this paper's primary focus. About: Stephen Mulhall is Professor of Philosophy, and Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy, at New College, Oxford. He was previously a Reader in Philosophy at the University of Essex, and a Prize Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. His research interests include: Wittgenstein; Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger and Sartre; the relation between philosophy, theology and religion; and the relation between philosophy and the arts – especially film and literature.

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