chapter  1
18 Pages

Television, Sensation, and Meaning

ByMarsha F. Cassidy

This chapter introduces the central premise of the book, that digital television in the 21st century evidences the capacity to arouse bodily sensations, affects, and feelings in the viewer; and, further, that these sensualities intensify emotion and temper interpretive meaning. The chapter makes clear that this approach does not abandon cultural interpretations but accepts the premise that television works, embedded in the fiber of American society, evoke a circuit of responses shaped by culture. The starting point for this argument is the groundbreaking work of film scholars in the humanities who appreciate the corporeal dimensions of film spectatorship (notably that of Vivian Sobchack, Laura Marks, and Jennifer Barker), but the chapter also takes into account earlier affect theory in television studies as well as emergent research about embodiment contributed by the cognitive and mind sciences. The chapter then explores the enigmatic concept of affect, defends television’s multisensory capability, and revisits postmodern questions about hyperreality. At a moment in history when the body is said to be threatened with erasure, the chapter concludes that advancements in digital television hold the potential to bolster or amplify depictions of human sensation and to activate the vibrancy of bodily meanings.