Viewing Sherlock, Season I

Sherlock is our first non-print text, and so it’s worth noting a couple of things to keep in mind as you view it.

  • First and foremost: discussing a visual text can be difficult, because you can’t really have the whole thing in front of you to reference.  As a substitute, I’d suggest that you take notes while you watch, or immediately after viewing.  (In a perfect world, you’d watch the episodes more than once, and then double back to take notes.  In lieu of that practice, scribble down lines, images, scenes that you think are notable while you’re watching, and revisit key ones after you’ve seen the whole thing to assess their importance.)
  • In the same way that form is important when you’re reading a print text, so too is it important in a visual narrative.  If you’re not familiar with film theory and vocabulary, I’d suggest that you take a quick skim through some of the major terms on the Yale Film Studies site (see sidebar).  The basic terms can help to give you some ideas of what to pay attention to, but even a quick look at the categories listed (mise-en-scene; editing, sound, etc.) can help to attenuate you to the ways that visual and audio elements impact the meaning created in the narrative.  Note any images or sounds that you find striking in the episodes.  Look for patterns.  Think about how they affect you as a viewer.
  • While I’ve been suggesting the ways that Sherlock is different than our other texts, it also bears some interesting similarities.  What are the connections that you see between Sherlock and Mr. PeanutThe Uses of Enchantment?  What mechanisms does it use to establish truth and/or reality for the viewer—what are its “conventions of realism”?  How do characters establish truth/reality for themselves?  What methods of reading or interpretation get them to the truth?
  • Finally, we’ll talk with Jim Collins about the ways that literary culture has become popular culture.  Sherlock came out after the films that he discusses in his book.  does Sherlock cohere to some of the same processes of tranformation?  Does it take on new ones?
  • Enjoy!

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