CFP: Seriality Seriality Seriality — Berlin, June 2016

Seriality Seriality Seriality: The Many Lives of the Field That Isn’t One

On June 22-24, 2016, the Popular Seriality Research Unit (DFG Forschergruppe 1091 “Ästhetik und Praxis populärer Serialität”) will hold its final conference in Berlin, Germany.

After six years, thirteen subprojects, nine associated projects, numerous conferences, workshops, and publications it is time to reach some kind of conclusion.

Together with our international collaborators over the years, we would like to explore future possibilities and alternative visions of a “field” that we always claimed existed. Thus, the focus of our final conference will be on the histories, conceptualizations, and methodologies of seriality studies itself.

Trying to sidestep the formats of the project pitch, the case study, the “reading” of individual series according to pre-existing theoretical models or their translation into philosophical master vocabularies, we invite scholarly practices—including those just mentioned—to reflect on the challenges and limits of (their contributions to) seriality studies as an ongoing, perhaps fantastical, project that traverses disciplinary and methodological paradigms.

Each of the Research Unit’s current subprojects will organize a section. Section formats will vary but they will always stress discussion and exchange. Hence, workshops and panel discussions will provide at least 40 minutes for Q&A. Time limits for papers (20 minutes) and panel statements (5 minutes) will be strictly enforced.

We invite paper proposals for sections nos. 3, 7, & 11 by October 31, 2015. Please specify which of these sections you are applying for; note that other sections are already complete.

Please refer to the CFP above for details and application procedures, and visit our conference website at:

International Conference: “Popular Seriality”

International Conference: “Popular Seriality”
June 6-8, 2013 // University of Göttingen

Above, the preliminary program for the upcoming conference of the seriality research group that several of my colleagues and I are involved with.

Most readers of this blog will already be familiar with the seriality group, but in case you’re not: The Research Unit “Popular Seriality—Aesthetics and Practice,” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG), brings together 15 researchers from the fields of American Studies, German Philology, Cultural Anthropology/European Ethnology, Empirical Cultural Studies, and Media Studies. Since 201o, six sub-projects have been investigating a narrative format that has become a defining feature of popular aesthetics: the series. The Research Unit addresses questions concerning the wide distribution and broad appeal of series since the 19th century and asks which new narrative formats have emerged through serialization. Further questions are: How do series influence the way we perceive and structure social reality? How are serial characters revised when they undergo one or more media shifts? How can we explain the progressively shrinking boundaries between producers and recipients in long running series? Which transformations in the field of cultural distinctions are produced by complex serial narratives, which are increasingly embedded in highbrow lifestyles and canonization practices?

From June 6 to 8, 2013, towards the end of the first funding period, the Research Unit will hold an International Conference in Göttingen. Talks will be given by members of the Research Unit and well-known researchers in the field of popular seriality. Among the scholars presenting at the conference are Sudeep Dasgupta, Jared Gardner, Julika Griem, Scott Higgins, Judith Keilbach, Lothar Mikos, Sean O’Sullivan, Patricia Okker, Irmela Schneider, Sabine Sielke, Ben Singer, William Uricchio, Constantine Verevis, Tanja Weber und Christian Junklewitz. Jason Mittell will give the keynote lecture.

For more information about the research unit, and to stay up to date on the conference and other activities, please refer to the group’s homepage:

Shane Denson: “Corporeal Engagement in Long-Form Serial Television”


Abstract for Shane Denson’s talk at the conference “It’s Not Television” (Frankfurt, 22-23 February 2013). See here for talks by other members of the Initiative for Interdisciplinary Media Research.

Serial Bodies: Corporeal Engagement in Long-Form Serial Television

Shane Denson

Discussions of so-called “Quality TV” and the narrative complexity seen to characterize the best of contemporary serial television productions often trade on categories of distinction derived from comparisons with “respectable” cultural forms (e.g. the novel as a model for “serious” engagement); these discourses value an intellectually demanding, heady sort of appeal that is opposed both to the narrative simplicity supposedly characteristic of older televisual forms (strictly episodic forms, melodramatic soap operas, etc.) and to the baser appeals of contemporary “trash TV” (e.g. the basically voyeuristic interest encouraged by reality TV). Interestingly, though, graphic scenes of sex and violence proliferate across contemporary television series, including shows widely valued for their cognitive demands; today, bodies are put on display, violated, tortured, dissected, and ripped apart in ways unimaginable on TV screens just a decade ago. In this presentation, I argue that these body spectacles – which range from clinical/forensic to brutal/gory to pornographic – challenge us to rethink the basis of television studies’ formal and normative distinctions. In particular, the complex mental operations valued as correlates of narratological complexity must be seen to take place side by side with a range of more corporeal responses on the part of television viewers. Finally, I propose an alternative view of televisual complexity and serialization: appealing to the body as much as the head, contemporary television will be shown to involve a serialization of bodies (both onscreen and off) that constitutes a central affective mechanism for engaging viewers week after week in long-form serial television.

Florian Groß: “The Creative Individual and Generic Family Structures in Recent TV Series”


Abstract for Florian Groß’s talk at the conference “It’s Not Television” (Frankfurt, 22-23 February 2013). See here for talks by other members of the Initiative for Interdisciplinary Media Research.

Born Alone, Die Alone, But Never Dine Alone:
The Creative Individual and Generic Family Structures in Recent TV Series

Florian Groß

Ever since television has been part of the American family, the American family has been part of television. Even under the “not TV”-paradigm, family remains a central aspect of television, as shows like The Sopranos or Six Feet Under attest. In many recent shows, this constitutive part of the televisual landscape interacts with a highly fetishized figure in contemporary television, the creative individual. Californication’s Hank Moody, Mad Men’s Don Draper, or 30 Rock’s Liz Lemon are but a few examples of non-conformist, iconoclast and ingenious characters who express their innate urges in various aesthetic(ized) fields and serially assert their individual freedom and self-reliance. Yet, despite their superficial undermining of traditional (family) concepts, they also take serial recourse to standard conceptions of family. They may be adulterers, divorcees, or singles, but they hardly ever define themselves without the (white, middle class, nuclear) family, which emerges as a structure that provides the creative heroes with boundaries that prevents them from becoming antisocial.

My paper analyzes this dynamic interaction between an aestheticized individualism and the continued relevance of family structures. Furthermore, I want to link this narrative aspect of television series to their respective take on genres. In an era that is purportedly moving beyond genre, it becomes nevertheless apparent that series frequently resort to classic televisual genres and thus return to their generic ‘family’. In the end, looking at recent television’s simultaneous deconstruction and reconstruction of the American family helps to explain how and why today’s segmented audience(s) are symbolically (re-)united by forms of television that restore the social function of an “electronic hearth” (Tichi).

“Take anything and make it a matter of expression”: media | matter conference

the matter of media | the mediality of matter

Here’s the announcement I just received from Bernd Herzogenrath for an exciting conference coming up soon (May 31 – June 2, 2012) in Frankfurt. Be sure to click the link above for the conference program, list of speakers (including Bill Morrison, Thomas Köner, Lorenz Engell, and Hanjo Berressem), registration, and other info.

The 2012 media|matter conference reflects the increased interest in the material aspects of our culture, triggered by the material turn as postulated by Deleuze & Guattari, Varela & Maturana, Serres, and others. In consequence we will assess the implications of this blossoming field of research which focuses rather on what represents, than on what is represented.
The aim of our conference is to re-focus approaches in culture- and media-sciences and to open up and foster new, interdisciplinary perspectives and concepts towards a revised understanding of media. By highlighting the materiality of the medium and reading this very materiality as medium, questions occur: can content and form still be regarded as separate? Or shouldn’t we rather acknowledge that the matter of the medium affects the message that is conveyed and represented? Shouldn’t we consequently speak of informed matter and of materialized information?
In the same way, social- and cultural-sciences cannot ignore the findings of the life-sciences, especially in the fields of complexity-theory and non-linear systems. Thus this conference also intends to bring together artists and researchers from diverse disciplines with differing understandings of media and materiality, not only to create feedback-loops between natural- and cultural-sciences, but also to re-think the somewhat fuzzy concepts of nature and culture.

Nonhuman Turn: Curricular Guide

The conference organizers for the upcoming “Nonhuman Turn” conference in Milwaukee (where I’ll be giving a talk called “Object-Oriented Gaga”) have posted a “Curricular Guide,” which includes all the abstracts for the conference. As with the preliminary schedule before, I am embedding it here for convenience.

Nonhuman Turn: Preliminary Schedule

The preliminary schedule for the Nonhuman Turn conference, where I’ll be presenting a paper on Lady Gaga, is now online, as I just learned from Adrian Ivakhiv (who has also just posted the abstract for his talk, “Process-Relational Theory and the Eco-Ontological Turn: Clearing the Ground between Whitehead, Deleuze, and Harman.”) For the sake of convenience, I have taken the liberty of embedding the schedule here.

Networks in American Culture / America as Network

The program for the conference “Networks in American Culture / America as Network,” where I’ll be talking about Serial Figures as Mediators of Change, is now online: here. And here is the description of the symposium, which looks like it will be a great event:

Networks in American Culture / America as Network

March 16-17, 2012, University of Mannheim

Keynote Speakers
Jay D. Bolter (Georgia Institute of Technology)
Wendy Hui Kyong Chun (Brown University)
Patrick Jagoda (University of Chicago)

In recent decades “network” and “networking” have emerged not only as popular buzzwords but also as key concepts in a variety of academic disciplines. The model of the network is used to describe a broad range of social, economic, media technological, and biological phenomena including social interactions, the global flows of goods and capital, the structure of the internet and social media platforms, as well as the neural organization of our brains. The concept of the network typically serves to analyze processes of multilateral interconnection and the complex systems of order they give rise to. While the study of networks has proliferated in the information, social, and natural sciences, literary and cultural scholars to date have been hesitant to develop a critical network theory.

This conference brings together German and U.S. American scholars to explore the contributions that network analysis can make to the field of American Studies. Forging connections between new media, literary, cultural, and science studies, the papers probe the theoretical and political implications that networks and networking possess as metaphor, interdisciplinary paradigm, aesthetic strategy, and communicative practice.


Prof. Dr. Ulfried Reichardt
PD Dr. Heike Schäfer
Dr. Regina Schober