Exploring Broadcast Literature: Television in the 21st Century

Kim Wilkins's picture
Type: 
Call for Papers
Date: 
July 8, 2018
Location: 
Australia
Subject Fields: 
Film and Film History, Humanities, Literature

A Day Workshop

UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY

Friday 28 September, 2018

In the media ecology of the new century, one of the ongoing success stories has been the rise and rise of scripted television – as a serious medium for ideas and debate, and as a space for developing new formal and generic schemas. Derided in the postwar decades for its formulaic and hidebound stories, and for being subject to constraints by censors and advertisers alike, television is now regularly raised above both film and theatre as the dramatic art form par excellence. The reasons for this gradual, yet none the less surprising, turnaround are numerous and well documented: the mushrooming of cable companies and subscription services; the widespread availability of file-sharing platforms; the popularity of the DVD boxed set (in the 2000s) and of streaming services (in the 2010s); the decision of content providers to become content producers (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime); and the increasing affordability of flatscreen TV sets and digital projectors.

As well as the economic logic underpinning the cable TV ascendancy, there are sound creative reasons for why producers, writers and directors might seek the freedom of long- form serial drama and comedy, rather than the self-contained, episodic model that still characterises network television. This freedom has been especially gratifying for the screenwriter. Often treated as expendable, or at least as subordinate, by the major film studios, in the cable TV context the writer now assumes the mantle of auteur (elevated to the creative-managerial position of ‘showrunner’), whilst the director is treated as a replaceable and near-anonymous gun-for-hire. This shifting of priorities has resulted in a more ‘literary’ and challenging medium. With its distinctively idiomatic dialogue, finely calibrated plot intricacies, and layering of story- and character-arcs, sometimes across several seasons, serial television has come to resemble nothing so much as the multi- volume novel.

The proposed workshop seeks to reflect further on these changes undergone by the medium, with a close examination of the millennial wave of TV shows (c. 1997 – present) that have contributed to the new environment. If ‘TV is the new novel’, as is often claimed, how do any of these shows underwrite, advance or contest the notion of ‘broadcast literature’ described above? Has the incursion of ‘literary values’, real or perceived, into what was once considered to be a sub-literate medium been an unequivocal good? Alternately, has ‘broadcast literature’ affected the ways that traditional (print) literature is written, interpreted, consumed?

If you are interested in exploring the literary attributes or implications of creator-driven television and would like to contribute to the workshop – with either a 15-20 min paper, or some clips framed by topics for discussion – please send an expression of interest by 8 July: 3-4 sentences outlining what you would like to speak on, and a brief bionote, to:

broadcastlit@gmail.com

Enquiries can also be sent to this address.

Attendees will be asked to register in advance, but there is no registration fee. Catering (lunch) will be provided.

Contact Info: 

broadcastlit@gmail.com

Organisers: A/Prof Paul Sheehan (Macquarie University) / Blythe Worthy (University of Sydney)

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