Even though it’s frequently asserted that we are living in a golden age of scripted television, television as a medium is still not taken seriously as an artistic art form, nor has the stigma of television as “chewing gum for the mind” really disappeared.
Philosopher Martin Shuster argues that television is
the modern art form, full of promise and urgency, and in
New Television, he offers a strong philosophical justification for its importance. Through careful analysis of shows including
The Wire, Justified, and
Weeds, among others; and European and Anglophone philosophers, such as Stanley Cavell, Hannah Arendt, Martin Heidegger, and John Rawls; Shuster reveals how various contemporary television series engage deeply with aesthetic and philosophical issues in modernism and modernity. What unifies the aesthetic and philosophical ambitions of new television is a commitment to portraying and exploring the family as the last site of political possibility in a world otherwise bereft of any other sources of traditional authority; consequently, at the heart of new television are profound political stakes.
Martin Shuster is assistant professor and chair of Judaic Studies in the Center for Geographies of Justice at Goucher College. In addition to many articles, he is the author of
Autonomy after Auschwitz: Adorno, German Idealism, and Modernity, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
“Shuster’s use of Stanley Cavell’s work on film to discuss the ontology of television is novel, and extends Cavell’s thought into a new area. Readers concerned with the issue of the new ‘quality’ television will find much of use in this book to help them think through why such shows have the power they do and how they lead the viewer to a new self-knowledge.”
— James B. South, Marquette University
"I take Martin Shuster’s
The Aesthetics and Politics of a Genre to be the most important contribution, since Stanley Cavell’s
The World Viewed, to the construction of a philosophy of
this genre of popular culture – the strange novel object intertwining television series, cinema, and our everyday lives. Both deep, erudite and wonderfully entertaining,
New Television explores 21st century works that are now becoming
Justified,…and many others. Overcoming generalist, theoretical, or elitist analyses of TV that simply miss the texture and the reality of our experience of moving images, Martin Shuster, following the lead of Stanley Cavell and Hannah Arendt, focuses on our shared and democratic experience of television. This fascinating book helps us understand how, and why, some TV series
matter to us, how they are constitutive of our memories, how they shape our present and future lives."
— Sandra Laugier, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne
"Martin Shuster has written an astonishing book on television's recent artistic and philosophical achievements. In a series of staggeringly bold and nuanced chapters he unfolds the thought of Stanley Cavell, Hannah Arendt, Michael Fried, and others in order to paint a compelling picture of how we can make intelligible the art of television and its inheritance of other artforms, modes of being, thinking, and judging. His claim that 'the medium has come of age' is cashed out in vivid accounts of
Justified which establish his critical authority as the leading philosopher of this medium and its evolving art."
— Jason Jacobs, The University of Queensland
"In this book, Shuster explores the genre of “new television,” which, he argues, is exemplified by the prestige cable dramas of the past two decades. . . .Drawing heavily on both Cavell and Arendt, Shuster brings the work of these thinkers together to argue that artworks, particularly those on the screen, allow the audience a view to another world. Television, Shuster contends, is uniquely suited to this worldbuilding task due to the temporal length of television series, which allow for in-depth explorations of a show’s world."