Prof: Paul Watkins
Location: Nanaimo (345.209)
Class Hours: Tues 1 pm–4 pm
Office Hours: Tues 11–12 pm & Thurs 2–3 pm
Phone: Ext. 2118
Office: 345. 204

“Where we’re from, the birds sing a pretty song and there’s always music in the air.” —Twin Peaks 1.2

On April 8th, 1990, some 35 million people tuned into some of the strangest television of their lives. Twin Peaks has gone on to inspire the mise-en-scène of multiple television programs, and the evocative music expanded the palette of sound far beyond the small town of Twin Peaks. Shows influenced by Twin Peaks include The X-Files, The Killing, Hannibal, Lost, Bates Motel, The Sopranos, FargoStranger Things, Dark, Riverdale, and Donald Glover said that with Atlanta he “just wanted to make Twin Peaks with rappers.” This course will focus on the six David Lynch directed episodes of the first two seasons (1990-1991) as well as select parts from the limited series (2017). We will also watch two Lynch films: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992) and Mulholland Drive (2001). Beyond that we will watch a few episodes and scenes from shows influenced by Twin Peaks and discuss what makes something “Lynchian” and what constitutes as “Quality” TV. We will explore representations of violence, the connection between sound, word, and image, dreams and surrealism, gender and feminism, narrative structure, and more. Course evaluation will include a review of the pilot or episode two from the first season, a group presentation, a creative project, a full-length research paper, and a final exam. This course promises to be both wonderful and strange.

Trigger Warning: Some of the content and discussion in this course will necessarily engage with representations of violence, sex/sexual abuse, and other mature themes.

Web pages of interest on Twin Peaks:

Given the filmic quality of Twin Peaks, these free guides might be useful:

Books and Collections on Twin Peaks, David Lynch, and Television Narrative:

  • Fiske, John and John Hartley, Reading Television. 1978; 2003. [eBook on VIU Library]
  • Halskov, Andreas.TV Peaks: Twin Peaks and Modern Television Drama. 2015.
  • Thorne, John. The Essential Wrapped in Plastic: Pathways to Twin Peaks.
  • Burns, Andy. Wrapped in Plastic. 2015. [eBook on VIULearn]
  • Dukes, Brad. Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks. 2014.
  • Chion, Michel. David Lynch. 2005.
  • Norelli, Clare Nina. Soundtrack from Twin Peaks. 2017.
  • Rodley, Chris, ed. Lynch on Lynch. 2005.
  • Lynch, Jennifer. The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. 1990.
  • Frost, Mark. The Secret History of Twin Peaks (2016) and Final Dossier (2017).
  • Lynch, David and Kristine McKenna. Room to Dream. 2018.
  • Hoffman, Eric, ed. Approaching Twin Peaks: Critical Essays. 2017.
  • Lavery, David, ed. Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks. 1994.
  • Nochimson, Martha P. Television Rewired: The Rise of the Auteur Series. 2019.
  • The Women of David Lynch: A Collection of Essays. 2019.
  • Biderman, Shai, ed. The Politics of Twin Peaks. 2019
  • Sanna, Antonio, ed. Critical Essays on Twin Peaks: The Return. 2019
  • Lim, Dennis. David Lynch: The Man from Another Place. 2015.


  • Close Reading: Pilot or 1:2 (750-1000 words) 15%
  • Creative Project (with 500-word write-up) 15%
  • Group Presentation 20%
  • Research Essay (2500-3000 words) 25%
  • Final Exam (Comparative analysis and Essay) 25%

See paper copy of syllabus for detailed breakdowns of assignments. 

Please note that this schedule is subject to change as the term progresses. All Secondary readings are available on VIULearn (please print or download copies for class).

Schedule has changed (No class on Mulholland Drive): Review Below

Sept 3
Introduction to television and film analysis (scene from Blue Velvet); course outline; standards and expectations; Who is David Lynch and why does Twin Peaks matter?
Screening: Pilot episode (“Northwest Passage”)

After class reading: Stephen Lacey, “Just Plain Odd: Some Thoughts on Performance Styles in Twin Peaks”; Burns, “Introduction” and “Chapter 1” (1-14); Andreas Halskov, “Prologue: Welcome to Twin Peaks” (8-15); Dennis Lim, “Welcome to Twin Peaks” (83-104)

Sept 10 
Readings: John Fiske, Reading Television (“Reading Television” 1-7 and “The Signs of Television” 22-40); John Thorne, “Cult Buster” (from The Essential Wrapped in Plastic); Ross P. Garner, “‘The Series That Changed Television?’ Twin Peaks, ‘Classic” Status,’ and Temporal Capital”; Andreas Halskov, “Peaks and Waves in Television History” (20-28) and “Beyond the Wasteland: Twin Peaks and the Second Golden Age” (29-38); Andy Burns, “Chapter 6” (see 70-79)
Screening: 1:2 (“Zen, or the Skill to Catch a Killer”) and selected scenes from Season 1
Clips: The Simpsons, 7:1, “Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part Two); Saturday Night Live with Kyle MacLachlan (1990); Sesame Street, “Twin Beaks”’; Japanese Coffee Commercials for Georgia Coffee

Sept 17 
Readings: Lenora Ledwon, “Twin Peaks and the Television Gothic” (1993); Andreas Halskov, “Lynching Television: TV Auteurism and the Question of Legitimacy” (54-95); Lindsay Hallam, “May the Giant Be With You: Twin Peaks Season Two, Episode One and the Television Auteur” (available, here)
Screening: 2:8 (“May the Giant Be with You”)
Reflection Review Due (Pilot or 1.2)

Sept 24  
Readings: Kathryn Kalinak, “‘Disturbing the Guests with This Racket’: Music and Twin Peaks” (1994); Paul Watkins, “Black Lodge Sonata” (draft copy)
Screening: 2:9 (“Coma”)
Clips: The Return (3.5 and 3.13); Badalamenti on “Laura Palmer’s Theme”; Mulholland Drive, Silencio scene; Riverdale, 2.9; Fresh Prince/ Twin Peaks mash-up
Discussion of Creative Intervention

Oct 1
Readings: Sue Lafky, “Gender, Power, and Culture in the Televisual World of Twin Peaks: A Feminist Critique”; Smith et al., “The Knowing Spectator of Twin Peaks: Culture, Feminism, and Family Violence”; Diane Stevenson, “Romance, Family Violence, and the Fantastic in Twin Peaks” (1994);  Diana Hume George, “Lynching Women: A Feminist Reading of Twin Peaks” (1994); Andreas Halskov,“Incest for Millions”: Edginess as a Marker of Quality (96-111); Stacy Rusnak, “Violence, Representation, and Girl Power: Twin Peaks’  Female Characters and Third Wave Feminism”
Screening: 2:14 (“Lonely Souls”)
Start Psych (“Dual Spires”)
Discussion of Group Projects

Oct 8
Readings: Thorne, “Half the Man he Used to Be”; O’Connor, “Bourgeois Myth versus Media Poetry in Prime- time: Re-visiting Mark Frost and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks”; Martha P Nochimson, “David Lynch, Twin Peaks” (from Television Rewired)
Screening: 2:29 (“Beyond Life and Death”) and selected scenes from season 2; Psych (“Dual Spires”)
Discussion of the first two seasons of Twin Peaks.

and Part 3 of Phenomenon promo.

Oct 15
Readings: John Thorne, “Critical Reaction to Fire Walk with Me” (265-270) and “The Realization of Laura Palmer” (271-297); Rachel Joseph, “‘Eat My Fear’: Corpse and Text in the Films and Art of David Lynch”
Screening: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me [VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED]
Discussion of Research Essay
[Meeting in 200/203]

[Recommend Home viewing: Mulholland Drive]

Video Essay 1: “How Lynch Manipulates You
Video Essay 2: “Mulholland Drive Explained

Oct 22
Readings: David McAvoy, “‘Is It About the Bunny? No, It’s Not About the Bunny!’: David Lynch’s Fandom and Trolling of Peak TV Audiences”; Joel Hawkes, “Movement in the Box: The Production of Surreal Social Space and the Alienated Body”  
Screening: Selected scenes from Parts 1-4
Screening: Atlanta, “Teddy Perkins” (2.6)

Atlanta: “The Many Layers of Atlanta’s ‘Teddy Perkins’”

Oct 29
Readings: Monique Rooney, “Air-object: on Air Media and David Lynch’s ‘Gotta Light?’”; Ashlee Joyce, “The Nuclear Anxiety of Twin Peaks: The Return
Screening: The Return, Part 8
Creative Interventions Due (including short presentations)
[Meeting in 200/203]

1-2:40 Screening in 200/203
3-3:50 Creative Intervention Sharing

Nov 5 
Readings: Ellis and Theus, “Is It Happening Again? Twin Peaks and ‘The Return’ of History”; Cobb and Potter, “Who is the Dreamer?”; Martha P Nochimson, “Coda: The Return of David Lynch (from Television Rewired); Amanda DiPaolo, “Is it Future or Is It Past?: The Politics and Use of Nostalgia in Twin Peaks”; Darci Doll, “Zen, or the Art of Being Agent Cooper”
Screening: The Return: selected scenes from parts 11, 15-18 and discussion
Screening: Fleabag, 2.1

Nov 12: Study Days

Nov 19           
Group Presentations (1 pm-3 pm)
Pilot of The Killing

Nov 26   
Readings: Dana Och, “All Laura Palmer’s Children: Twin Peaks and Gendering the Discourse of Influence”; Andreas Halskov, “Copies and Continuations: Final Remarks” (226-233)
Pilot of Riverdale
Clips: Pretty Little Liars (Pilot), Jordskott, Forbrydelsen, and Dark

Dec 3 
Screening: Stranger Things (Pilot)
Possible scenes from Fargo (3.8), Bates Motel, Veronica Mars, The SopranosTrue DetectiveTop of the Lake, Broadchurch, The Leftovers
Discussion: What makes something Twin-Peaks-like or “Lynchian”?
Exam review
Twin Peaks-themed potluck 

FINAL EXAM: Monday, Dec 9th at 1 pm in 345.209