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Raymond Williams (1921—1988) literary scholar and novelist

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Welsh cultural critic Raymond Williams's concept of how television operates. In a short book entitled Television: Technology and Cultural Form (1974), Williams observes that television cannot be thought of in terms of single programmes because the actual experience of watching television is like dining from a smorgasbord—there is a vast amount of choice. Just as importantly, television doesn't begin or end with a single programme; there is always another programme to follow, so its content does not have a defined shape. Rather it flows like a river. Although he'd been a television critic for a number of years, writing for the BBC's publication, The Listener, Williams didn't develop his theory until he spent a sabbatical in California. Perhaps it was only when he'd moved away from the highly structured and regulated television environment of the BBC to the looser and highly commercialized television environment of California that he was able to see television for what it really is. Williams's concept had enormous influence in British Cultural Studies for a number of years, but it also had its critics. American critic John Ellis argued against it in Visible Fictions (1982), proposing as an alternative a theory of television as a segmented commodity.

Further Reading:

R. Dienst Still Life in Real Time: Theory After Television (1994).

Subjects: Literary Theory and Cultural Studies.


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