HUMS 218, Storytelling and Contemporary TV

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11.35-12.50

Course Description:

If Shakespeare were alive today, he would be writing for TV. So would Jane Austen. With the advent of cable, DVDs, the internet, and live streaming, TV—once considered a “vast wasteland”—has become the most dynamic and creative medium for storytelling, attracting talented writers, directors, and actors.

This course explores the innovative narrative strategies that have transformed that wasteland into fertile terrain and ushered in a new Golden Age of TV. Careful visual and textual analysis of episodes is complemented by critical readings and comparisons to literature and cinema. We also consider technical and business pressures on the creative process behind today’s “complex TV.”

The first part of the term focuses on the AMC series Breaking Bad. The second part considers episodes from a range of shows in order to highlight the significance of title sequences, pilots, dialogue, subjective narration, jumbled chronology, and problematic endings. The third part examines the HBO series The Young Pope, which brings narrative and visual effects from cinema to the small screen.


Led by:

Professor Virginia Jewiss received her PhD in Italian literature from Yale University and taught at Dartmouth College and Trinity College’s Rome campus before returning to Yale, where she is currently Lecturer in the Humanities and Director of the Yale Humanities program in Rome. She has translated the work of numerous Italian authors and film directors, including Roberto Saviano’s Gomorrah, Melania Mazzucco’s Vita, and screenplays for Paolo Sorrentino and Gabriele Salvatores.


This course has never been offered before. Testimonials come from previous courses taught by Professor Jewiss.

  • “Professor Jewiss is so knowledgeable and intelligent, that it made the class excellent. The interdisciplinary approach - looking at images, primary sources, etc - was an enagaging way to learn that Yale should embrace more of.” - The City of Rome (Spring 2018)