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LCS Visiting Scholar Lecture Series - Prof. Michael SZALAY

  • 24 Sep, 2014
  • Research & Knowledge Transfer

LCS Visiting Scholar Lecture Series

Prof. Michael SZALAY


Public Lecture I:  "HBO's Game of Brands"

Tuesday September 23, 15:00 – 16:30, Education University of Hong Kong, Room D3-P-05


Executives at the premium cable channel HBO frequently declare that the network’s commitment to “quality” storytelling precedes any quantitative measure of its viewership or the immediate profits derived from a given show. We are “not determining success on the basis of numbers,” reasons CEO Richard Plepler. “We’re determining success on the basis of quality and we believe the numbers will follow." Being committed to quality means elevating aesthetic integrity above the short-sighted calculation of immediate gain that dominates traditional broadcast networks. And yet, HBO storytelling is reflexively preoccupied with its own quantification. HBO programs like Game of Thrones and Veep seem to tell political stories about power and government, but these shows transform their seemingly political subject matter in covert ways. At bottom, these programs are suspicious of any but market ideals. As they allegorize their own dissolution into monetary measure, HBO programs offer surprisingly nuanced accounts of how the value that they contain, their "brand equity," might be converted into other forms.


Public Lecture II:  "The Manchurian Candidate, Then and Now"

Wednesday September 24, 11:30-1:00, Education University of Hong Kong, Room D1-LP-03


This lecture will examine the history of The Manchurian Candidate, from Richard Condon's cold war spy thriller to the recent "quality" TV show Homeland. Condon’s 1959 novel describes the adventures of an American GI captured by the Chinese during the Korean War, and returned to the US a sleeper agent. Translated into nineteen languages, it has served as the basis for two major motion pictures and, now, a popular TV series about an American soldier who is converted to radical Islam while in Afghanistan. U.S. president John F. Kennedy was a fan of the novel and the first movie; Barack Obama is a fan of the current TV series. Attending to these and related moments of cultural influence, this lecture will unpack the manner in which "quality" television now impacts official politics and policy within the United States.




Michael Szalay is Professor of English at the University of California, Irvine, and has worked for years as a consultant within the film and television industries. He’s currently finishing two book projects. The first explores branding and finance at Time Warner and its subsidiaries since 1996. The second is a comparative and interview-driven account of the institutional and legal norms that organize authorship in the television and publishing industries. Professor Szalay’s previous books include New Deal Modernism: American Literature and the Invention of the Welfare State (Duke University Press, 2000) and Hip Figures: A Literary History of the Democratic Party (Stanford University Press, 2012).


LCS Visiting Scholar Lecture Series - Prof. Michael SZALAY