Television Series and Narratology: New Avenues in Storytelling
Television has long been considered the visual medium where writers continue to hold sway over the director/auteur who dominates the silver screen. For reasons that perhaps stem from the burgeoning industry of screenwriter’s seminars and screenwriting handbooks, increasing attention has been paid to the structure of television writing: showrunners like Dan Harmon (creator and once and future showrunner of Community) expose their Propp-like schematics of episode-writing to an avid audience, while the Sundance channel has followed in the footsteps of Orange’s documentary series Showrunners with its own documentary series on television writers, The Writer’s Room. How does the traditionally collaborative writing process of the American television series combine with the auteurist vision of television present since David Chase and The Sopranos became a household name?
The Emmy nominations announced on July 18, 2013, were unusual in heralding not only the best and brightest in television, but also the storytelling innovations that television has been showcasing in recent years. By nominating Netflix’s House of Cards, whose entire first season was made available on the VOD service, Hollywood acknowledged the changes in the way television is made, packaged, and enjoyed: the serialized narratives that have become relatively standard in recent years no longer require the viewer to ‘tune in next week.’ Instead, streaming, DVD, and VOD services now allow for marathon viewings that demand increasingly complex narratives to satisfy sustained and / or repeated viewings. It seems therefore an appropriate time to reexamine the narrative strategies employed in a new golden age for American television.
Topics could include:
*Structure: the television series has evolved in recent years, both in its beginnings, and its endings (for example with the generalization of the cold open, or the efforts made to truly conclude a series rather than have it simply end).
*Defining one’s terms: with efforts like Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8 (in comic book format) and Richard Castle’s Nikki Heat books appearing in bookstores, where does diegesis end?
*Problems of seriality and television narrative: how has television’s attitude towards seriality changed, and how does the television writer satisfy the weekly viewer, the binge viewer, and the repeat viewer? Has the traditional structure of writing in acts and its perpetuations been called into question—for example in premium cable offerings, where commercial breaks are no longer an issue?
*Frame narratives: to what extent has the return of the often ironic narrator, from Sex in the City to Desperate Housewives, hailed a similarly ironic distance from the diegesis? What has been the cultural impact of the suggestive use of analepse and prolepse in a series like Lost?
*Self-referential television: does quality television necessarily refer to itself, as Robert J. Thompson once suggested, and has this tendency increased in recent years?
This list is not exhaustive.
Essays in English of between 5,000 and 10,000 words should be submitted to Georges-Claude Guilbert AND Shannon Wells-Lassagne by December 31, 2013.