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Imagining Politics: Interpretations in Political Science and Political Television, Stephen Benedict Dyson

Reviewed by Joseph R. Fitzgerald

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In April 2019, Black feminist Barbara Smith spoke about how, 50 years earlier, she was considering which graduate school program she would enroll in: English or sociology. She decided on the former because, in her words, “literature had always been my first love, and I thought that there was just as much truth to be found in literature as there was in social science research.” Stephen Benedict Dyson essentially agrees with Smith, and he has produced an interesting and accessible book in which he successfully argues that both political scientists and the creators of fictional television shows engage in “meaning making,” or the process of making sense of Western democratic political systems and the politicians who inhabit them.

Utilizing the field of popular culture studies, Dyson analyzes television and web-based shows (such as The West Wing, Scandal, House of Cards) to reveal how their creators have embedded their own ideas about politics into their art and how these ideas inform viewers’ own beliefs about politics, including who their leaders are and what voters can and should expect from them. Political scientists do the same, Dyson argues, but most have never seen themselves in this way. Thus, this book challenges the political science paradigm&rsqu

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